CHAPTER FOUR Parajika This term, according to the Parivara, derives from a verb meaning to
This term, according to the Parivara, derives from a verb meaning to
lose or be defeated. A bhikkhu who commits any of the four following
offenses has surrendered to his own mental defilements to such an
extent that he defeats the purpose of his having become a bhikkhu in
the first place. The irrevocable nature of this defeat is
illustrated in the Vibhanga with a number of similes: "as a man with
his head cut off...as a withered leaf freed from its stem...as a
flat stone that has been broken in half cannot be put together
again...as a palm tree cut off at the crown is incapable of further
growth." A bhikkhu who commits any of these offenses severs himself
irrevocably from the life of the Sangha and is no longer considered
1.Should any bhikkhu -- participating in the training and
livelihood of the bhikkhus, without having renounced the
training, without having declared his weakness -- engage in
the sexual act, even with a female animal, he is defeated
and no longer in communion.
Effort. In this rule, the term //sexual act refers to all kinds of
sexual intercourse. The Vibhanga classifies the various types of
intercourse by the organs involved -- the genitals, the mouth, the
anus -- and in any of the possible combinations (except for
mouth-to-mouth, which is treated separately under Sanghadisesa 2,
below), the sexual act has been performed when one organ enters the
other even if just to "the extent of a sesame seed." This means that
a bhikkhu engaging in genital, oral, or anal intercourse is subject
to this rule regardless of which role he plays. The question of
whether there is a covering, such as a condom, between the organs is
irrelevant, as are the questions of whether the bhikkhu is actively
or passively involved, and whether or not any of the parties
involved reaches orgasm.
Object. The full penalty under this rule applies to any voluntary
sexual intercourse with a human being, a "non-human" being (a
//yakkha//, //naga//, or //peta//), or a common animal, whether
female, male, neuter, or hermaphrodite.
Performing the sexual act with a dead body -- even a decapitated
head -- also entails the full penalty if the remains of the body are
intact enough for the act to be accomplished.
The Vinita Vatthu also lists two examples of "self-intercourse": A
bhikkhu with a supple back takes his penis into his mouth, and a
bhikkhu with an unusually long penis inserts it into his anus. Both
cases carry the full penalty, which shows that one's own anal and
oral orifices can fulfill the factor of object here.
Knowledge & consent. For the sexual act to count as an offense,
the bhikkhu must know that it is happening and give his consent.
Thus if he is sexually assaulted while asleep or otherwise
unconscious and remains oblivious to what is happening, he incurs no
penalty. If, however, he becomes conscious during the assault or was
conscious right from the start, then whether he incurs a penalty
depends on whether he gives his consent during any part of the act.
Strangely enough, neither the Canon nor the Commentary discusses
the factor of consent in any detail, except to mention by way of
passing that it can apply to the stage of inserting, being fully
inserted, staying in place, or pulling out. From the examples in the
Vinita Vatthu, it would appear that consent refers to a //mental//
state of acquiescence, together with its physical or verbal
expression. Mere physical compliance does not count, as there are
cases where bhikkhus forced into intercourse comply physically but
without consenting mentally and so are absolved of any offense; but
there is some question as to whether a bhikkhu who consents mentally
to letting the sexual act happen would incur the penalty if he
simply lies still and lets it happen, or if he would have to
indicate his consent with a verbal act or physical motion.
As we mentioned in Chapter 1, the rules contains two patterns
concerning what does and does not count as a physical expression of
consent when one is forced into a situation that would break a rule.
In two of the Vinita Vatthu cases mentioned under this rule,
bhikkhus are approached by women who volunteer to fondle them to the
point where they emit semen (%). Both bhikkhus let them go ahead,
and both incur the full penalty under Sanghadisesa 1. In such cases,
simply letting the act happen counts as physical acquiescence. Under
Sanghadisesa 2, however, if a bhikkhu is approached by a woman who
fondles his body, and he consents mentally to what she is doing, he
incurs a penalty if he says something or makes a physical move to
indicate that consent, but no penalty if he remains perfectly still.
None of the texts explain why there are these two patterns, but
two possibilities suggest themselves: (1) It is physically
impossible to emit semen and to enjoy the emission without the
body's moving in one way or another. (2) One is not necessarily
responsible if a woman simply makes contact with one's body, even if
one enjoys the contact; but if one is happy to let her get to the
point where she has one ejaculating, one cannot deny responsibility
for what is happening. In either case, this rule would seem to
follow the pattern for Sanghadisesa 1: If one is sexually assaulted,
one is completely absolved from an offense only if (1) one does not
give one's mental consent at any time during the act or (2) one does
feel mental consent during at least part of the act but puts up a
struggle so as not to express that consent physically or verbally in
any way. If one puts up no struggle and feels mental consent, even
if only fleetingly during the stage of inserting, being fully
inserted, staying in place, or pulling out, one incurs the full
This would seems to be the basis for the Commentary's warning in
its discussion of the Vinita Vatthu case in which a bhikkhu wakes up
to find himself being sexually assaulted by a woman, gives her a
kick, and sends her rolling. The warning: This is how a bhikkhu
still subject to sensual lust should act if he wants to protect his
state of mind.
Derived offenses. The only thullaccaya directly related to this
rule is for the unlikely case of a bhikkhu who attempts intercourse
with the decomposed mouth, anus, or genitals of a corpse. (!) To
attempt intercourse with any other part of a dead body or with any
part of an insentient object, such as an inflatable doll or
mannikin, incurs a dukkata.
The Vibhanga states that if a bhikkhu attempts intercourse with
any part of a living being's body apart from the three orifices, the
case falls under the Sanghadisesa rules -- either Sanghadisesa 1 for
intentional ejaculation or Sanghadisesa 2 for lustful bodily
contact. As we shall see below, the penalties assigned in the latter
case are as follows: if the partner is a woman, a sanghadisesa; if a
//pandaka// (see Sanghadisesa 2), a thullaccaya; if a man or a
common animal, a dukkata. We can infer from the Vibhanga's ruling
here that if a bhikkhu has an orgasm while attempting intercourse
with the decomposed mouth, anus, or genitals of a corpse, with any
other part of a dead body, or with any part of an insentient object,
the case comes under Sanghadisesa 1.
The Commentary disagrees with the Vibhanga on these points,
however, saying that the derived offenses under this rule can
include only dukkata and thullaccaya penalties. In its explanation
of Sanghadisesa 1, it sets forth a system of eleven types of lust in
which the lust for the pleasure of bringing about an ejaculation,
lust for the pleasure of bodily contact, and lust for the pleasure
of intercourse are treated as completely separate things that must
be treated under separate rules. Thus, it says, if a bhikkhu aiming
at intercourse takes hold of a woman's body, it is simply a
preliminary to intercourse and thus entails only a dukkata, rather
than a sanghadisesa for lustful bodily contact. Similarly, if he has
a premature ejaculation before beginning intercourse, there is no
offense at all.
These are fine academic distinctions and are clearly motivated by
a desire to draw neat lines between the rules, but they lead to
practical problems. As the Commentary itself points out, if a
bhikkhu commits an act that falls near the borderline between these
rules, but cannot later report precisely which type of lust he was
feeling in the heat of the moment, there is no way his case can be
judged and a penalty assigned. At any rate, though, there is no
basis in the Canon for the Commentary's system, and in fact it
contradicts not only the Vibhanga's ruling mentioned above, but also
its definition of "lustful" under Sanghadisesas 2, 3, & 4, which is
exactly the same for all three rules and places no limits on the
type of lust involved. All of this leads to the conclusion that the
Commentary's neat system is invalid, and that the Vibhanga's
judgment holds: If a bhikkhu attempts intercourse with any part of a
living being's body apart from the three orifices, the case falls
under the Sanghadisesa rules -- either Sanghadisesa 1 for
intentional ejaculation or Sanghadisesa 2 for lustful bodily contact
-- rather than here.
Blanket exemptions. In addition to bhikkhus who do not know they
are being assaulted or do not give their consent when they do know,
the Vibhanga states that there are four special categories of
bhikkhus exempted from a penalty under this rule: any bhikkhu who is
insane, possessed by spirits, delirious with pain, or the first
offender (in this case, Ven. Sudinna) whose actions prompted the
Buddha to formulate the rule in the first place. The Commentary
notes that anyone who "goes about in an unseemly way, with deranged
perceptions, having cast away all sense of conscience and shame, not
knowing whether he has transgressed major or minor training rules,"
counts as insane here. It recognizes this as a medical condition,
which it blames on the bile. As for spirit possession, it says that
this can happen either when spirits frighten one or when, by
distracting one with sensory images, they insert their hands into
one's heart by way of one's mouth. (!) At any rate, it notes, insane
and possessed bhikkhus are exempt from penalties they incur only
when their perceptions are deranged ("when their mindfulness is
entirely forgotten, and they don't know what fire, gold, excrement,
and sandalwood are") and not from any they incur during their lucid
moments. As for a bhikkhu overcome with pain, he is exempt from
penalties he incurs only during periods when the pain is so great
that he does not know what he is doing.
These four categories are exempted from penalties under //all// of
the rules, although the first offender for each rule is exempted
only for the one time he acted in such a way as to provoke the
Buddha into formulating the rule. I will not mention these
categories again, but the reader should bear them in mind as being
exempt in every case.
Lastly, the Vinita Vatthu to this rule includes an interesting
case that formed the basis for an additional rule:
"At that time a certain monk had gone to the Gabled Hall in
the Great Wood at Vesali to pass the day and was sleeping,
having left the door open. His various limbs were stiff with
the 'wind forces' (i.e., he had an erection). Now at that
time a large company of women bearing garlands and scents
came to the park, headed for the vihara. Seeing the bhikkhu,
they sat down on his male organ and, having taken their
pleasure and remarking, 'What a bull of a man!' they went on
their way, taking up their garlands and scents."
The bhikkhu incurred no penalty, but the Buddha gave formal
permission to close the door when resting during the day.
Summary: Voluntary sexual intercourse -- genital, anal, or
oral -- with a human being, non-human being, or common
animal is a parajika offense.
* * *
2. Should any bhikkhu, in the manner of stealing, take what
is not given from an inhabited area or from the wilderness
-- just as when, in the taking of what is not given, kings
arresting the criminal would flog, imprison, or banish him,
saying, "You are a robber, you are a fool, you are
benighted, you are a thief" -- a bhikkhu in the same way
taking what is not given is defeated and no longer in
This rule against stealing is, in the working out of its details,
the most complex in the Patimokkha and requires the most explanation
-- not that stealing is a concept especially hard to understand,
simply that it can take so many forms.
The Vibhanga defines the act of stealing in terms of four factors:
1) //Object//: anything belonging to another person, a group
of persons, or a location (such as the offerings made to a
2) //Perception//: One perceives that the object belongs to
another person, etc.
3) //Intention//: One decides to steal it.
4) //Effort//: One takes possession of it.
Stealing under any circumstances is always an offense. However,
the severity of the offense depends on another factor, which is --
5) //The value of the object//.
Object. For an object to qualify as //what is not given// -- the
rule's term for anything that may be the object of a theft -- it
must belong to another person or be guarded as common property of a
group or of a location, such as the offerings to a Buddha image,
chedi, or other sacred place, as mentioned above. A further
stipulation is that the owner or person responsible for guarding the
object has neither given nor thrown it away. Thus there is no
offense for a bhikkhu who takes a discarded object, such as rags
from a pile of refuse; unclaimed things from a wilderness; or things
unclaimed by any human being but in the possession of an animal or
ghost. The Vinita Vatthu mentions an interesting case in which the
groundskeeper in an orchard permits bhikkhus to take fruit from the
orchard, even though he was not authorized to do so. The bhikkhus
committed no offense.
The question of property belonging to the Sangha logically fits
here, but since the topic is fairly complex, I will treat it as a
special case below
Perception. For the act of taking "what is not given" to count as
theft, one must also //perceive //the object as being something not
given. Thus there is no offense if one takes an object, even if it
is "not given," if one sincerely believes that it is ownerless or
thrown away. Similarly, if a bhikkhu takes an object mistaking it
for his own or as belonging to a friend who has given him permission
to take his things on trust, there is no offense. Or again, a
bhikkhu who takes things from the Community's common stores, on the
assumption that he has the right to help himself, commits no offense
even if the assumption proves false.
Intention. The act of taking "what is not given," even when one
perceives it as "not given," counts as theft only if one's intention
is to steal it. Thus if a bhikkhu takes an object on loan or on
trust, he commits no offense. According to the Commentary, to take
something on loan means that one has the intention that, "I'll
return it," or "I'll make compensation."
As for taking an object on trust, Mv.VIII.1.19 lists five
conditions that must be met if a bhikkhu is rightly to take an
object on trust:
a. The owner is a friend.
b. He/she is an intimate.
c. He/she has given one permission to take from his/her
d. He/she is still alive.
e. One is confident that he/she will not mind.
If any of these factors is lacking -- for example, the owner is a
good friend but has never given explicit permission to take from
his/her things -- one has no right to take the things on trust.
However, the Vinita Vatthu gives the case of a bhikkhu who takes an
item mistakenly thinking that he had the right to take it on trust;
the Buddha termed this a "misconception as to trust" and did not
impose a penalty.
The most common problem that arises in this area is when one
sincerely assumes that the owner will not mind, but it turns out
that he/she does. In cases of this sort there is no offense, and the
matter is left to the bhikkhu and the owner to settle on their own
as amicably as possible.
A bhikkhu who, seeing an article left in a place where it might be
damaged, puts it in safe keeping for the owner, commits no offense.
Effort. Assuming that all of the above conditions are met -- the
object belongs to someone else, one perceives it as belonging to
someone else, and one intends to steal it -- if one then takes it,
that constitutes stealing. The question then arises as to precisely
what acts constitute //taking//. To summarize the Vibhanga's
treatment of this question, we can classify objects into two broad
types: moveable and immovable.
Moveable items are said to be taken when they are moved entirely
from their "base(s)," i.e., the spot(s) on which they rest. An
object such as a box or a trunk lying flat along the ground or
touching its support at a single area has a single base and counts
as "taken" if it has been moved entirely from its base. An object
such as a table or chair touching its support at a number of
separate places has that number of bases. For instance, a stool with
three legs touches the floor at three points and so has three bases.
An object with more than one base is "taken" when it has been moved
from all of its bases. Thus a television set standing on four legs
is taken when all four of its legs have been lifted or slid away
from the four spots on which they were standing.
If a moveable object is placed on another moveable object, such as
a television set placed on a cart, there are two ways to count it as
taken -- either when it is removed from its base on the cart or when
the wheels of the cart have been moved from all of their bases on
the floor -- whichever occurs first.
If person A is carrying an object, and person B tries to take it
from him, it is counted as taken even if B succeeds only in moving
it from one spot on A's body to another.
According to the Vibhanga, if a person holding an object with the
owner's permission then decides to abscond with it, it counts as
taken when he shifts it to another part of his person (e.g., into
his pocket) or places it elsewhere. The Vinaya Mukha, however, takes
issue with this point, saying that cases of this sort should be
treated under the terms of a breach of trust, which is discussed
Animals are reckoned to have one base (e.g., snakes, any reclining
animal) or more (e.g., chickens or dogs on their feet) in the same
way as inanimate objects, and are said to be taken when they are
pulled, chased, etc., completely from their base(s).
When a bhikkhu takes a moveable object in theft, the question of
whether he makes off with it is irrelevant as far as the offense is
concerned. For example, if he tries to steal a radio and succeeds in
moving it completely from its base, but then hears the owner coming
and so returns it to its original place, the owner would not even
know that the object was in danger of being taken, and the civil law
would regard the act at most as an attempted theft. As far as the
Vinaya is concerned, though, the theft occurred when the bhikkhu
first moved the object, and the fact that he returned it would not
erase the theft. He would still be guilty of an offense.
As for immovable objects -- land or things such as buildings or
trees affixed to the land -- these are taken when the rightful owner
unwillingly abandons his claim to them of his own accord (through
fear of intimidation or reluctance to incur the expense and bother
of a court battle) or when he is forced to do so by a court of law
and cannot, or does not, make a further appeal. In the Buddha's
time, a court dispute involving land was considered fully settled
when the winner of the case staked out his claim with the permission
of the court. Thus the Vibhanga states that a bhikkhu who unfairly
wins a court case of this sort has "taken" the land when he formally
stakes out his claim after winning the case. At present we would say
that he has taken the land when he receives the deed.
Immovable objects in the secondary sense -- trees, buildings, etc.
-- are treated in the same light as ordinary moveable objects if a
bhikkhu cuts them down or dismantles them: They count as taken when
removed from their bases.
These are the general considerations for determining when an
object is taken. The Vibhanga, though, cites a number of additional
cases involving special contingencies, as follows:
a. //Fraudulence//: Objects are being distributed by lot to
the Community. A bhikkhu desiring the portion rightfully
going to another bhikkhu exchanges his ticket for the other
bhikkhu's ticket. The "taking" is accomplished when the
tickets have been exchanged.
b. //Breach of trust//: A person places goods in trust with
a bhikkhu. When the owner comes to ask for their return, the
bhikkhu claims that he does not have them. The taking is
accomplished when the owner stops pressing his claim. If the
case goes to court, the taking is accomplished when the
owner loses the case in the final court to which he appeals.
c. //Embezzlement//: A bhikkhu responsible for items kept in
a storeroom removes one of the items from the storeroom. The
taking is accomplished when the item leaves the storeroom's
d. //Smuggling//: A bhikkhu carrying items subject to an
import duty hides them as he goes through customs. The
taking is accomplished when the item leaves the customs
area. If, however, the bhikkhu informs the customs official
that he has an item subject to customs duty, and yet the
official decides not to collect the duty, the bhikkhu incurs
no penalty. And there is no penalty if the bhikkhu goes
through customs not knowing that he has an item subject to
import duties among his effects.
Special cases cited in the Commentary include the following:
a. //False dealing//: A bhikkhu makes counterfeit money or
uses counterfeit weights. The taking is accomplished when
the counterfeit is accepted.
b. //Extortion//: Using threats, a bhikkhu compels the owner
of an object to give it to him. The taking is accomplished
when the owner complies.
The value of the object. As stated above, any case of stealing
counts as an offense, but the gravity of the offense is determined
by the value of the object. This is the point of the phrase in the
rule reading, "just as when there is the taking of what is not
given, kings...would banish him, saying... 'You are a thief.'" In
other words, for theft to entail a parajika, it must be a case of
grand larceny, which in the time of the Buddha meant that the goods
involved were worth at least five //masakas//, a unit of money used
at the time. Goods valued collectively at more than one masaka but
less than five are grounds for a thullaccaya; goods valued
collectively at one masaka or less are grounds for a dukkata, the
worth of the articles being determined by the price they would have
fetched at the time of the theft.
This leaves us with the question of how a masaka would translate
into current monetary rates. No one can answer this question with
any certainty, for the oldest attempt to peg the masaka to the gold
standard dates from the V/Subcommentary, which sets one masaka as
equal to 4 rice grains' weight of gold. At this rate, the theft of
an item worth 20 rice grains' (1/24 troy ounce) weight of gold or
more would be a parajika offense.
One objection to this method of calculation is that some of the
items mentioned in the Vinita Vatthu as being grounds for a parajika
when stolen -- e.g., a pillow, a bundle of laundry, a robe, a
handful of rice during a famine -- would seem to be worth much less
than 1/24 troy ounce of gold, but we must remember that many items
regarded as commonplace now might have been viewed as expensive
luxuries at the time.
In spite of this objection, there is one very good reason for
adopting the standard set by the V/Subcommentary: It sets a high
value for the least article whose theft would result in a parajika.
Thus when a bhikkhu steals an item worth 1/24 troy ounce of gold or
more, there can be no doubt that he has committed the full offense.
When the item is of lesser value, there will be inescapable doubt --
and when there is any doubt concerning a parajika, the tradition of
the Vinaya consistently gives the bhikkhu the benefit of the doubt:
He is not compelled to disrobe. A basic principle operating
throughout the texts is that it is better to risk letting an
offender go unpunished than to risk punishing an innocent bhikkhu.
There is a second advantage to the V/Subcommentary's method of
calculation: its precision and clarity. Some people have recommended
adopting the standard expressed in the rule itself -- that if the
theft would result in flogging, imprisonment or banishment by the
authorities in that time and at that place, then the theft would
constitute a parajika -- but this standard creates more problems
than it would solve. In most countries the sentence is largely at
the discretion of the judge or magistrate, and the factor of value
is only one among many taken into account when determining the
penalty. This opens a whole Pandora's box of issues, many of which
have nothing to do with the bhikkhu or the object he has taken --
the judge's mood, his social philosophy, his religious background,
and so forth -- issues that the Buddha never allowed to enter into
the consideration of how to determine the penalty for a theft.
Thus the V/Subcommentary's method of calculation has the benefits
that it is a quick and easy method for determining the boundaries
between the different levels of offense in any modern currency; it
involves no factors extraneous to the tradition of the Vinaya, and
-- as noted above -- it draws the line at a value above which there
can be no doubt that the penalty is a parajika.
If a bhikkhu steals several items on different occasions, the
values of the different items are added together to determine the
severity of the offense //only if they were stolen as part of a
single plan or intention//. If they are stolen as a result of
separate intentions, each act of stealing is treated as a separate
offense whose severity depends on the value of the individual
item(s) stolen in that act. This point is best explained with
In a case given in the Vinita Vatthu, a bhikkhu decides to steal a
spoonful of ghee from a jar. After swallowing the spoonful, he
decides to steal one more. After that he decides to steal another,
and so on until he has finished the jar. Because each spoonful was
stolen as a consequence of a separate plan or intention, he incurs
several dukkatas, each for the theft of one spoonful of ghee.
If, however, he decides at one point to steal enough lumber to
build himself a hut and then steals a plank from here and a rafter
from there, taking lumber over many days at different places from
various owners, he commits one offense in accordance with the total
value of all the lumber stolen, since he took all the pieces of wood
as a consequence of one prior plan.
Derived offenses. If a bhikkhu tries to steal an article that
would be grounds for a parajika but does not succeed -- e.g., he is
going to steal a book from a shelf, but before he can remove it from
its place on the shelf he hears someone approaching and so walks off
without taking it -- he commits a lighter offense in accordance with
the effort made. Offenses of this sort are called offenses committed
in the //pubbayoga// or preliminary steps. In the case of stealing,
they are determined as follows:
//Inanimate moveable objects:// If the article is made to
budge slightly, but is not moved completely from its base,
or from some but not all of its bases -- thullaccaya. All
actions prior to this, beginning with the act of walking
toward the object with intent to steal it -- dukkata.
//Animals:// If in driving the animal along the bhikkhu gets
it to move its front feet -- thullaccaya. All actions prior
to this -- dukkata.
//Immovable objects and articles placed in trust//: If the
bhikkhu creates doubt in the mind of the owner as to whether
he will deprive him/her of the property in question --
thullaccaya. All actions prior to this -- dukkata.
//Immovable objects in the secondary sense (e.g., a tree)://
If with one more blow of the ax the tree will fall --
thullaccaya. All actions prior to this -- dukkata, unless
(according to the Vinaya Mukha) there is a training rule
imposing a higher penalty, such as the pacittiya rule
concerning injury to plant life.
For ease of remembrance, if the bhikkhu is one step away from
taking the object, he incurs a thullaccaya; if he does not go that
far, he incurs one or more dukkatas.
In offenses of this sort, when a heavier penalty is incurred, only
that penalty is counted, and the preceding lighter ones are
nullified. For example, in the case mentioned above, if the bhikkhu
trying to steal the book simply touches it, he incurs a string of
dukkatas for each step in walking up to the book and taking hold of
it. If he budges the book slightly but not so much as to move it
completely from its spot, the dukkatas are nullified and replaced
with a thullaccaya. If he actually takes the book, that nullifies
the thullaccaya and replaces it with a parajika.
Shared responsibility. A bhikkhu can commit an offense not only if
he himself steals an object, but also if he incites another to
steal. The offenses involved in the acts leading up to the crime are
If a bhikkhu tells an accomplice to steal an object that would be
grounds for a parajika, he incurs a dukkata. If the accomplice
agrees, the instigator incurs a thullaccaya. Once the accomplice
succeeds in taking the object as instructed -- whether or not he
gets away with it, and whether or not he shares it with the
instigator -- the instigator incurs a parajika. If the accomplice is
a bhikkhu, he too incurs a parajika. If the object would be grounds
for a thullaccaya or a dukkata, the only penalties incurred prior to
the actual theft would be dukkatas.
If there is any confusion in carrying out the instructions --
e.g., if the accomplice, instead of taking the book specified by the
instigator, takes something else instead; or if he is told to take
it in the afternoon but instead takes it in the morning -- the
instigator incurs only the penalties for proposing the theft and
persuading the accomplice, and not the penalty for the theft itself.
The same holds true if the instigator rescinds his order before the
theft takes place, but the accomplice goes ahead and takes the
According to the Commentary, an instigator who wishes to call off
the theft before it is carried out, but who for one reason or
another cannot get his message to the accomplice in time, incurs the
full penalty for the completed theft.
If there is a chain of command -- Bhikkhu A telling Bhikkhu B to
tell Bhikkhu C to tell Bhikkhu D to commit the theft -- then once D
takes the object as instructed, all four incur the penalty coming
from the theft. If there is any confusion in the chain of command --
e.g., Bhikkhu B instead of telling C tells D directly -- neither A
nor C incurs the penalty for the theft itself.
If bhikkhus go in a group to commit a theft, but only one of them
does the actual taking, all still incur the penalty coming from the
theft. Similarly, if they steal valuables worth collectively more
than five masakas but which when divided among them yield shares
worth less than five masakas each, all incur a parajika.
Special cases. As mentioned above, the notion of stealing covers a
wide variety of actions. The texts mention a variety of actions that
border on stealing, some of them coming under this rule, some of
//Belongings of the Sangha//. According to the Commentary to
Nissaggiya Pacittiya 30, an item belongs to the Sangha when donors,
intending for it to be Sangha property, offer it to one or more
bhikkhus representing the Sangha, and those bhikkhus receive it,
although not necessarily into their hands. Sangha property thus
counts as "what is not given" as far as individual bhikkhus are
concerned, for it has an owner -- the Sangha of all times and places
-- and is guarded by the individual Community of bhikkhus.
Sangha property is divided into two sorts: light (//lahu-bhanda//)
and heavy (//garu-bhanda//). Light property includes such things as
robes, bowls, medicine, and food. Heavy property includes such
things as monastery land, buildings, and furnishings. The Buddha
gave permission for individual Communities to appoint certain of
their members to be officials responsible for the proper use of
Sangha property. The officials responsible for light property are to
distribute it among the members of the Community, following set
procedures to ensure that the distribution is fair. Once an
individual member has received such property, he may regard it as
his own and use it as he sees fit.
In the case of heavy property, though, the officials are
responsible for seeing that it is allotted for proper use in the
Community, //but the individual bhikkhus who are allowed to use it
may not regard it as their own personal property//. This is an
important point. At most, such items may be taken on loan or
exchanged -- with the approval of the Community -- for other heavy
property of equal value. A bhikkhu who gives such items away to
anyone -- ordained or not -- perceiving it as his to give, incurs a
thullaccaya, no matter what the value of the object. Of course, if
he knows that it is not his to give or take, then in appropriating
it as his own he incurs the penalty for stealing.
The Buddha was highly critical of any bhikkhu who gives away heavy
property of the Sangha. In the origin story to Parajika 4, he cites
the case of a bhikkhu who, hoping to find favor with a lay person,
gives that person some of the Sangha's heavy property. Such a
bhikkhu, he says, is one of the five great thieves of the world.
A bhikkhu who takes heavy property of the Sangha donated for use
in a particular monastery and uses it elsewhere incurs a dukkata. If
he takes it on loan, he commits no offense.
//Receiving stolen goods//. Accepting a gift of goods, or
purchasing them very cheaply knowing that they were stolen, would in
Western criminal law result in a penalty similar to stealing itself.
However, neither the Canon nor the commentaries mention this case.
The closest they come is in the Vinita Vatthu, where a groundskeeper
gives bhikkhus fruit from the orchard under his care, even though it
was not his to give, and there was no offense for the bhikkhus. Thus
the implication is that there is no offense for receiving stolen
goods, even knowingly, although a bhikkhu who does so would not be
exempt from the civil law and the consequent proceedings, in the
course of which the Community would probably urge him to disrobe.
(In Thailand, the civil law empowers the police to force a bhikkhu
to disrobe if he is charged with a criminal case.)
//Compensation owed//. The Commentary introduces the concept of
//bhandadeyya//, or compensation owed, to cover cases where a
bhikkhu is responsible for the loss or destruction of another
person's property. It defines this concept by saying that the
bhikkhu must pay the price of the object to the owner or give the
owner another object of equal value to the one lost or destroyed; if
he abandons his responsibility to the owner, he incurs a parajika.
The Commentary applies this concept not only to cases where the
bhikkhu knowingly and intentionally destroys the object, but also to
cases where he borrows or agrees to look after something that then
gets lost, stolen, or destroyed through his negligence; or where he
takes an item mistakenly thinking that it was discarded or that he
was in a position to take it on trust.
To cite a few examples: A bhikkhu breaks another person's jar of
oil or places excrement in the oil to spoil it. A bhikkhu who is
charged with guarding the Community storeroom lets a group of other
bhikkhus into the storeroom to fetch belongings they have left
there; they forget to close the door and, before he remembers to
check it, thieves slip in to steal things. A group of thieves steal
a bundle of mangoes but, being chased by the owners, drop it and
run; a bhikkhu sees the mangoes, thinks that they have been thrown
away, and so eats them after getting someone to present them to him.
A bhikkhu sees a wild boar caught in a trap and, out of compassion,
sets it free but cannot reconcile the owner of the trap to what he
has done. In each of these cases, the Commentary says, the bhikkhu
in question owes compensation to the owner of the goods. (In the
case of the mangoes, he must compensate not only the owners but also
the thieves if it turns out that they had planned to come back and
fetch the fruit.) If he abandons his responsibility to the owner(s),
he incurs a parajika.
In making these judgments, the Commentary is probably following
the civil law of its day, for the Canon contains no reference at all
to the concept of bhandadeyya, and some of its judgments would seem
to contradict the Commentary's. For instance, the Vinita Vatthu
mentions a case in which a bhikkhu knowingly sets fire to a field of
grass (which in those days would have been worth more than five
masakas), and yet it assigns only a dukkata to the action. When it
discusses cases where a bhikkhu takes an item on mistaken
assumptions, or where he feels compassion for an animal caught in a
trap and so sets it free, it says that there is no offense at all.
Thus it seems strange for an action that, according to the Canon,
carries a dukkata or no penalty whatsoever to become grounds for a
parajika. Of course, in all cases of this sort it would be a wise
policy to offer the owner reasonable compensation, but it is by no
means certain that a bhikkhu would have the wherewithal to do so.
The Canon places only one responsibility on him: to apologize to the
owner (see Cv.I.18-20). If he doesn't apologize, the Community, if
it sees fit, can force him to. Beyond that, though, the Canon does
not require that he make any material compensation at all. Thus, as
the Commentary's concept of bhandadeyya is clearly foreign to the
Canon, there seems no reason to adopt it.
//Court actions//. As stated above, if a bhikkhu knowingly starts
an unfair court case against someone else and then wins it in the
final court to which the accused makes appeal, he incurs a parajika.
The Commentary to the Bhikkhuni's Sanghadisesa 1, however, states
that even if a bhikkhu is actually mistreated by someone -- defamed,
physically injured, robbed, etc. -- and then tries to take a just
court action against the guilty party, he incurs a parajika if he
wins. Again, this is an instance where the Commentary has no support
from the Canon and, as the Vinaya Mukha points out, its assertion
cannot stand. However, the training of a bhikkhu requires that he
view all losses in the light of kamma and focus on looking after the
state of his mind rather than on seeking compensation in social or
There is no question in any of the texts that if a bhikkhu is
asked to give evidence in a courtroom and does so, speaking in
accordance with the facts, he commits no offense no matter what the
outcome for the others involved.
//Deceit//. If a bhikkhu uses a deliberate lie to deceive another
person into giving an item to him, the transgression is treated not
as a case of stealing -- since, after all, the item is given to him
-- but rather as a case of lying. If the lie involves making false
claims to superior meditative attainments, it is treated under
Parajika 4. If not, it is treated under Pacittiya 1. The Vinita
Vatthu gives two examples:
During a distribution of requisites in the Community, a bhikkhu
asks for and is given an extra portion for a non-existent bhikkhu.
A bhikkhu approaches his teacher's lay supporter and asks for
medicines, saying that they will be for his teacher, although he
actually plans to use them himself instead.
In both of these cases, the penalty is a pacittiya for lying.
//Compassion//. The Vinita Vatthu contains a case in which a
bhikkhu, out of compassion, releases an animal caught in a hunter's
snare. He incurs no penalty.
In another case, a bhikkhu with psychic powers uses them to
retrieve a pair of kidnapped children. The Buddha states that this
entails no penalty because such a thing lies in the province of
those with psychic power. The Vinaya Mukha, in discussing this case,
takes it as a precedent for saying that if a bhikkhu returns a
stolen article to its legal owner, there is no offense. The Buddha's
statement, though, was probably meant to discourage bhikkhus without
psychic powers from getting directly involved in righting wrongs of
this sort. If a bhikkhu happens to learn of the whereabouts of
stolen goods, kidnapped children, etc., he may inform the
authorities, if he sees fit, and let them handle the situation
//Taking articles from undecomposed corpses//. In the early days
of the Sangha, bhikkhus were expected to make their robes from
discarded cloth, one source being the cloths used to wrap corpses
laid in charnel grounds. (The bhikkhus would wash and boil the cloth
before using it themselves.) However, they were not to take cloth
from undecomposed bodies, and this was for a reason.
"At one time a certain bhikkhu went to the charnel ground and took
hold of discarded cloth on a body not yet decomposed. The spirit of
the dead one was dwelling in the body. It said to the bhikkhu,
'Honored sir, don't take hold of my cloak.' The bhikkhu, ignoring
it, went off (with the cloak). The body, arising, followed closely
on the heels of the bhikkhu until the bhikkhu, entering the vihara,
closed the door, and the body fell down right there."
The story gives no further details, and we are left to imagine for
ourselves both the bhikkhu's state of mind while being chased by the
body and his friends' reaction to the event. As is usual with the
stories in the Vibhanga, the more outrageous the event, the more
matter-of-fact is its telling, and the more its humor lies in the
At any rate, as a result of this incident the Buddha laid down a
dukkata penalty for taking cloth from an undecomposed body -- which,
according to the Commentary, means one that is still warm.
Modern cases. The modern world contains many forms of ownership
and monetary exchange that did not exist in the time of the Buddha,
and so contains many forms of stealing that did not exist then
either. Here are a handful of cases that come to mind as examples of
ways in which the standards of this rule might be applied to modern
//Breach of copyright.// The international standards for copyright
advocated by UNESCO state that breach of copyright is tantamount to
theft. They go on to state, however, that if one duplicates
articles, books, cassette tapes, or video tapes for private use, for
study, or for non-profit distribution, one may copy as much as one
likes. In some countries, though, one is allowed to copy only small
portions of copyrighted material for such purposes, although exactly
how small is only vaguely defined. Thus, as local copyright laws do
not always adopt the UNESCO standard, a bhikkhu should check with
the law before copying anything. In particular, the agreements
covering the copying of commercial computer software usually do not
permit the owner to give copies of the software to anyone for any
reason, and limit the number of copies one may make for one's own
use. One should follow such agreements to the letter.
//Credit cards//. The theft of a credit card would of course be an
offense. The seriousness of the offense would be determined by how
much the owner would have to pay to replace the stolen card.
Nissaggiya Pacittiya 20 would forbid a bhikkhu from using a credit
card to buy anything even if the card were his to use, although a
bhikkhu who had gone to the extent of stealing a card would probably
not be dissuaded by that rule from using it or having someone else
use it. At any rate, each use of a stolen card would also count as a
theft, the seriousness of which would be calculated in line with the
principle of the "prior plan" mentioned above.
//Long distance telephone calls//. Unauthorized use of a telephone
to place long distance calls would also count as a theft, and again
the seriousness of the offense would be calculated in light of the
principle of the prior plan.
//Tax evasion//. If a bhikkhu intentionally does not pay a tax to
which he is subject -- say, on an inheritance he receives -- he is
guilty of a theft, which would occur on the deadline for payment of
the tax. Of course, a bhikkhu who fails to pay a tax out of
ignorance would not be guilty of an offense.
Exchanging currency on the black market is also a form of tax
evasion in countries where there is a tax on currency exchange, so a
bhikkhu in such a country who directs his steward to change money on
the black market would be guilty of a theft. If, however, the
steward on his own initiative exchanges money on the black market
for use in the bhikkhu's account, the bhikkhu commits no offense.
Summary: The theft of anything worth 1/24 ounce troy of gold
or more is a parajika offense.
* * *
3. Should any bhikkhu intentionally deprive a human being of
life, or search for an assassin for him, or praise the
advantages of death, or incite him to die (thus): "My good
man, what use is this wretched, miserable life to you? Death
would be better for you than life," or with such an idea in
mind, such a purpose in mind, should in various ways praise
the advantages of death or incite him to die, he also is
defeated and no longer in communion.
This rule against intentionally causing the death of a human being
is best understood in terms of five factors, all of which must be
present for there to be a parajika offense.
1) //Object//: a human being, which according to the
Vibhanga includes human fetuses as well, counting from the
time consciousness first arises in the womb immediately
after conception up to the time of death.
2) //Intention//: knowingly, consciously, deliberately, and
purposefully wanting to cause that person's death.
"Knowingly" also includes the factor of --
3) //Perception//: perceiving the person as a living being.
4) //Effort//: whatever one does with the purpose of causing
that person to die.
5) //Result//: The person dies as the result of one's act.
Object. The Vibhanga defines a human being as a person "from the
time consciousness first becomes manifest in a mother's womb, up to
its death-time." (The concept of //death-time//, since it relates
most directly to questions that arise in treating the terminally
ill, will be discussed in the section dealing with that topic,
below.) It follows from this that a bhikkhu who intentionally causes
an abortion -- by arranging for the operation, supplying the
medicines, or giving advice that results in an abortion -- incurs a
parajika. A bhikkhu who encourages a woman to use a means of
contraception that works after the point of conception would be
guilty of a parajika if she were to follow his advice.
There is a series of cases in the Vinita Vatthu in which bhikkhus
provide medicines for women seeking an abortion, followed by two
cases in which a bhikkhu provides medicines to a barren woman who
wants to become fertile and to a fertile woman who wants to become
barren. In neither of these two latter cases does anyone die, but in
both cases the bhikkhu incurs a dukkata. From this, the Commentary
infers that bhikkhus are not to act as doctors to lay people, an
inference supported by the Vibhanga to Sanghadisesa 13. (The
Commentary, though, gives a number of exceptions to this principle.
See the discussion under that rule.)
The parajika offense is for killing a human being aside from
oneself. A bhikkhu who attempts suicide incurs a dukkata.
A bhikkhu who kills a "non-human being" -- a yakkha, naga, or peta
-- or a devata (this is in the Commentary) incurs a thullaccaya.
According to the Commentary, when a spirit possesses a human being
or an animal, it can be exorcised in either of two ways. The first
is to command it to leave: This causes no injury to the spirit and
results in no offense. The second is to make a doll out of flour
paste or clay and then cut off various of its parts. If one cuts off
the hands and feet, the spirit loses its hands and feet. If one cuts
off the head, the spirit dies, and this is grounds for a
A bhikkhu who intentionally kills a common animal is treated under
Intention & perception. The Vibhanga defines //intentionally// as
"having made the decision knowingly, consciously, and purposefully."
According to the Commentary, //having made the decision// refers to
the moment when one "crushes" one's indecisiveness by taking an act.
//Knowingly// means being aware that, "This is a living being."
//Consciously// means being aware that one's action is depriving the
living being of life. //Purposefully// means that one's purpose is
murderous. Whether one is motivated by compassion, hatred, or
indifference is irrelevant as far as the offense is concerned.
All of the above sub-factors must be present for the factors of
intention and perception to be fulfilled here. Thus there is no
offense for a bhikkhu who causes a death --
//accidentally// -- e.g., accidentally dropping a rock that
kills a person standing below; or toying with a gun, trying
to decide whether or not to kill the person, and the gun
accidentally goes off before he can make up his mind;
//not knowing that a living being was there// -- e.g.,
placing a heavy load on a pile of cloth without realizing
that a person was lying underneath it;
//not conscious that his action is causing death// -- e.g.,
by unwittingly giving poisoned food to another bhikkhu who
eats it and dies;
or when his actions are //motivated by a purpose other than
that of causing death// -- e.g., giving medicine to a fellow
bhikkhu, sincerely trying to help cure him, but the sick
bhikkhu chokes on the medicine and dies.
One aspect of the Commentary's definition of //knowingly// is
worth noting here: One does not need to know that the living being
is a human being for the factor of perception to be fulfilled. Thus
if a bhikkhu hears a noise in the dark and, thinking it to be a wild
animal, stabs it with intent to kill, he incurs a parajika if the
"animal" turns out to be a human being who dies from the wound.
Although this judgment may seem strange, it is supported by a
passage in the Canon: A man digs a pitfall with the thought that
whatever living beings fall into it will perish. The penalty, if an
animal dies as a result, is a pacittiya; if a human being, a
parajika. This shows that the intention/ perception of killing a
living being of any kind fulfills the relevant factors here.
The Vinita Vatthu contains an unusual case of a bhikkhu who uses a
friend as a guinea pig for testing poison. The friend dies, and the
bhikkhu incurs only a thullaccaya. The Commentary explains this by
distinguishing two types of test: one to see if a particular poison
is strong enough to kill a person; the other, to see if a particular
person is strong enough to survive the poison. In either of these
cases, the bhikkhu incurs a thullaccaya whether or not the victim
dies. If, though, the bhikkhu gives poison to a person with the
desire that it cause that person's death, he incurs a parajika if
the victim dies, and a thullaccaya if not.
Effort. This factor covers four types of action: taking life,
assisting a murderer or suicide, describing the advantages of dying,
and inciting a person to die.
a) //Taking life//. The Vibhanga defines //taking life// as
"cutting off the life faculty," and the Commentary's discussion of
this point shows clearly that this means interrupting the continuity
of life before it would reach its "timely" end through the
exhaustion of the victim's merit or life potential The Commentary
lists six means by which one might make such an effort:
-- //One's own person//. This includes using not only one's hands
or feet, but also such weapons as knives, sticks, clubs, etc.
-- //Throwing//: hurling a stone, shooting an arrow or a gun, etc.
-- //Stationary devices//: setting a trap, poisoning food, etc.
-- //Magical formulae//: calling on malevolent spirits to bring
about a person's death, using voodoo, etc.
-- //Psychic powers//. using the "evil eye" or other similar
-- //Commanding//: inciting another person to commit a murder.
This category includes recommendations as well as express commands.
A few examples:
Telling A to kill B. The way in which a bhikkhu is penalized for
getting another person to commit a murder can be inferred from the
discussion of //shared responsibility// under the preceding rule.
The Commentary to this rule goes into great detail concerning the
six ways the command to kill can be specified: the object [the
person to be killed], the time, the place, the weapon to use, the
action by which the weapon is to be used [e.g. "Stab him in the
neck"], and the position the victim should be in [sitting, standing,
lying down] when the act is to be done. If the instigator specifies
any of these things, and yet the person following his orders does
not carry them out to the letter, the instigator does not incur the
penalty for the actual murder. For instance, Bhikkhu A tells his
student to kill B while B is sitting in meditation at midnight. The
student gets into B's room at midnight, only to find B asleep in
bed, which is where he kills him. Bhikkhu A thus incurs only the
thullaccaya for convincing his student to accept the command.
Inciting A to kill B. The Commentary includes a case of a socially
active bhikkhu who tells people, "In such-and-such a place a bandit
is staying. Whoever cuts off his head will receive great honor from
the King." If any of the bhikkhu's listeners kills the bandit as a
result of his instigation, the bhikkhu incurs a parajika.
Recommending means of euthanasia. The Vinita Vatthu includes a
case of a criminal who has just been punished by having his hands
and feet cut off. A bhikkhu asks the man's relatives, "Do you want
him to die? Then make him drink buttermilk." The relatives follow
the bhikkhu's recommendation, the man dies, and the bhikkhu incurs a
Recommending means of capital punishment. Again from the Vinita
Vatthu: A bhikkhu advises an executioner to kill his victims
mercifully with a single blow, rather than torturing them. The
executioner follows his advice, and the bhikkhu incurs a parajika.
This judgment indicates that a bhikkhu should not involve himself in
matters of this sort, no matter how humane his intentions. According
to the Vinita Vatthu, if the executioner says that he will not
follow the bhikkhu's advice and then kills his victims as he
pleases, the bhikkhu incurs no penalty. The Commentary adds that if
the executioner tries to follow the bhikkhu's advice and yet needs
more than one blow to do the job, the bhikkhu incurs a thullaccaya.
As we have mentioned, though, the best course is to leave matters of
this sort to the laity.
b) //Assisting a murderer or suicide.// A bhikkhu may commit an
offense not only by using any of the six above-mentioned means of
taking life, but also by intentionally assisting a person who uses
any of them to commit a murder or a suicide. This is how the
Vibhanga explains the phrase, "search for an assassin" in the rule.
The act of assisting includes not only finding an assassin, but also
procuring weapons for the would-be murderer or suicide.
c) //Describing the advantages of dying//. This, the third type of
act covered by this rule, can include berating a sick person ("Why
do you keep hanging on to life like this? Don't you realize what a
burden you are to others?") or simply telling a person of the
miseries of life or the bliss of dying and going to heaven in such a
way that he/she might feel inspired to commit suicide or simply pine
away to death. The Vibhanga notes that these statements fulfill this
factor whether delivered by gesture, by voice, by writing, or by
means of a messenger
d) //Inciting a person to die//, the fourth type of act, covers:
-- Recommending suicide. This includes not only telling a person
to commit suicide, but also giving advice -- whether requested or
not -- to a would-be suicide on the best ways to commit the act.
-- Telling a person to go to a dangerous place where he/she might
die of the dangers.
-- Arranging a terrible sight, sound, etc. to frighten a person to
death, or a beautiful, "heart-stirring" one to attract a person who
will then pine away to death when it fades.
//Command//. Giving a command or recommendation to get another
person to perform any of these last three types of action --
assisting a murder or suicide, describing the advantages of dying,
or inciting another person to die -- would also fulfill the factor
of effort under this rule.
//Expressing a wish//. According to the Vibhanga, a bhikkhu who
expresses an idle wish that so-and-so be murdered would incur a
dukkata, whether or not he was overheard. If, however, the bhikkhu's
purpose in expressing the wish is that his listener take him up on
it and commit the murder, his action would come under the category
of "command," mentioned above.
//Inaction// does not fulfill the factor of effort here. Thus if a
bhikkhu sits idle when seeing a flood sweep a person down-stream, he
commits no offense -- regardless of his feelings about the person's
death -- even if the person then drowns. Recommending that another
person sit idle as well would also not fulfill this factor, because
the category of "command" here covers only the act of inciting the
listener to do any of the four actions that would fulfill the factor
of effort under this rule.
Result. If a bhikkhu fulfills the factor of effort with the
intention of causing a person's death, and the person dies as a
result, he incurs a parajika. This holds even if the person does not
die immediately, but succumbs later, say, to complications arising
from a wound caused by the bhikkhu. If the person does not die, but
experiences pain or injury as a result of the bhikkhu's efforts, the
penalty is a thullaccaya. If the bhikkhu's efforts result in neither
pain nor death, the penalty is a dukkata for each separate action
leading up to them.
If a bhikkhu intends simply to injure the victim or cause him/her
pain, and yet the victim dies as a result of the bhikkhu's actions,
the case is treated under Pacittiya 74.
There is an apparent contradiction in the Vinita Vatthu concerning
the penalty for a bhikkhu who tries to kill one person but ends up
killing another instead. In one passage, it says that a bhikkhu who
means to kill X but kills Y instead incurs a parajika. In another
passage, it tells of a bhikkhu who gives medicine to a woman who
wants to commit an abortion near the end of a full-term pregnancy.
The woman takes the medicine but, instead of the fetus' aborting,
the woman dies and the infant survives. In this case, the bhikkhu
incurs a thullaccaya, presumably for the pain he caused the infant.
The Commentary tries to resolve this contradiction with an
illustration: A bhikkhu with a grudge against A decides to ambush
him. He sees B coming down the road and, mistaking him for A, shoots
him dead on the spot. Since his intention was to kill the person he
was aiming at, he incurs a parajika. We can call this a case of
mistaken identity. In cases of this sort, whether the "right" or the
"wrong" person dies is of no consequence to the offense.
If, however, the bhikkhu is a poor shot, takes aim at B but misses
him, and inadvertently kills C instead, he does not incur a
parajika, for he did not intend to kill C during any part of his
action. His only penalties are the dukkatas he incurs while
preparing for B's murder.
If a bhikkhu means to cause the death of any member of a group,
then when any member of the group dies as a result of his efforts,
he incurs a parajika.
Caring for the terminally ill. Some of the most highly charged
issues involving this training rule concern the duties of a bhikkhu
acting as nurse, and his accountability in the event that his
patient dies. Not a few controversies have arisen in the past when
highly respected teachers have died after an illness, for there is a
tendency to blame the nurse either for the teacher's death or for
being so intrusive in his care that he does not let the teacher die
in peace. Recent developments in modern medicine -- such as
professionally mandated care, life-support machines, and organ
transplants -- have further complicated the issue of exactly how far
the nurse's accountability goes. Fortunately, the texts are quite
clear on these issues -- applying rules where rules are called for,
and guidelines where rules would be inappropriate -- but to
understand their rationale it is necessary to have some historical
perspective on the subject.
Medical care in the time of the Buddha was primarily the
responsibility of the ill person's family. Subsidized health care
did not exist, and so families had a very real sense of the
exigencies -- their time, their resources, the wishes of the
patient, and the likelihood of his recovery -- that might force them
to provide less than state-of-the-art care, even for a loved one. At
the same time, the current Western system whereby one style of
medical care can establish itself as "standard" -- and can enlist
the help of the law to discredit alternative styles of treatment as
bogus -- also did not exist. Patients and their families had a wide
assortment of treatments to choose from and, given the means to make
a choice, might select a particular style for any number of reasons:
belief in the theory that lay behind it, trust in a particular
doctor, rapport with the means of treatment, etc.
As a result, there was none of the belief, current in some
circles, that outside professionals have the right to monopolize
medical care or to impose their standards of treatment on an
unwilling patient or his family. The choice of treatment was an
in-family matter. If a patient balked at a particular doctor's
treatment, the family was free to decide whether to honor his wishes
and forego the treatment, or to force the treatment on him for his
own good. On the other hand, if the patient's condition reached the
point where the family felt that the doctor's treatment was futile,
unaffordable, or otherwise no longer appropriate, it could dismiss
the doctor and attempt treatment on its own, doing whatever was
within its ability to offer moral support to the patient and
alleviate his pain and discomfort while waiting for factors beyond
its control -- such as the patient's present and past kamma -- to
decide the outcome of the disease.
The principal ethical constraints on this arrangement, ancient
medical textbooks show, were that doctors should not use their
knowledge to aggravate or prolong illness -- to do so would count as
malpractice -- and that no one should subject a patient to treatment
designed to bring on death faster than it would if the disease were
simply allowed to run its course: To defy this principle would count
This, in brief, was the accepted pattern for medical care in the
Buddha's time. The only change the Buddha introduced to the pattern
was to point out to the bhikkhus that, as they had no family to care
for them, they were to take on the role of family for one another.
If a bhikkhu falls ill, it is automatically the duty of his mentor,
his students (if he has any), or fellow students of his mentor to
care for him. These people are to stay with the patient until he
either recovers or dies -- although the Commentary to Mv.I.25.24
points out that they may leave him if they put him into the care of
another. If a bhikkhu happens to fall ill in a place where none of
these people are available, it is the duty of the Community in that
location to care for him. If it doesn't care for him, all the
members of that Community incur a dukkata (MV.VIII.26.3-4).
The Mahavagga contains guidelines for the ill bhikkhu and his
nurses to follow, so that the ill bhikkhu will be easy to care for,
and the nurses will be chosen from among those best suited to the
task. The ill bhikkhu ideally avoids any food, medicine, or activity
that would aggravate his disease; he knows moderation in the things
that will be conducive to his recovery; he takes his medicine; he
reports to the nurse his condition as it actually is; and does his
best to endure his pain (Mv.VIII.26.5).
The nurse ideally is one who knows how to prepare the proper
medicines; knows what is conducive and unconducive to the patient's
recovery; provides the patient with what is conducive and removes
what is not; tends the patient out of kindness, and not from hope of
gain; is not squeamish about cleaning up urine, excrement, sweat, or
vomit; and is competent at encouraging the patient at the
appropriate times with a talk on Dhamma (Mv.VIII.26.5).
There is no offense for a patient who does not live up to the
ideal guidelines for his behavior; and none for a bhikkhu who,
though lacking any of the ideal qualities of nurse, is pressed into
a position where he must care for the sick. The only penalties
mentioned in the Khandhakas are the dukkatas for those who neglect
to care for the ill when they are duty-bound to do so or who abandon
an ill person they are caring for before he recovers or dies.
The Vinita Vatthu to this rule contains only two basic cases in
which a bhikkhu acting as a nurse for an ill friend incurs a
parajika: one in which the friend dies after the bhikkhu gives him a
specific treatment with the purpose of killing him off; and one in
which the bhikkhu, feeling pity for a friend in severe pain, praises
the pleasures that await him after death so that he will give up the
will to live and speed up his death: The friend does so and dies as
a result of the nurse's instigation.
Aside from the parajikas for such cases of out-and-out murderous
action and intent, and the dukkatas for leaving the patient
helpless, the Canon imposes no penalties on a bhikkhu acting as
nurse who provides his patient with less than ideal care. Instead,
within the parameters of those penalties, it offers guidelines for
ideal behavior, together with the encouragement of the Buddha's
remark that, "He who would tend to me should tend to the sick."
(Mv.VIII.26.3) From there it leaves it up to the bhikkhu to exercise
his best judgment, in light of the Dhamma, as to what is most
fitting in his individual case.
A moment's reflection will suggest some obvious reasons for this.
If a particular standard of care were mandated, it would give rise
to countless questions stemming from the many uncontrollable
variables that can surround an illness, questions that rules are
ill-suited to answer: How much must one's resources be depleted
before one can say that a particular type of care is unaffordable?
How should limited resources be allocated when several bhikkhus fall
sick at the same time? What should one do if the patient says that
he does not want to undergo a treatment that a doctor is trying to
press on him? If one follows the patient's request is he assisting a
suicide? Should one follow the doctor's orders and thus risk
damaging the patient's psychological state? The list of questions
could go on, but it is obvious from even these examples that this is
an area less suited for rules than for guidelines that can be
adapted to suit particular circumstances. Decisions here should be
based on a reasoned and compassionate assessment of the particular
situation, rather than on fear of hard and fast penalties and rules.
The commentaries' treatment of the issue of a nurse's
accountability follows the same general pattern as the Canon's, but
we find Buddhaghosa's works -- probably following the ancient
commentaries -- bringing a little more precision to the discussion
by introducing a distinction between //timely// and //untimely//
death that the Commentary applies to the Vinita Vatthu cases. The
distinction comes from Ayurveda -- ancient Indian medical science --
although Buddhaghosa expresses it in purely Buddhist terms, most
fully in the Visuddhi Magga:
"//Timely death// comes about with the exhaustion of merit,
with the exhaustion of life potential (//ayu//), or with
both. //Untimely death// comes about through kamma that
interrupts [other, life-producing,] kamma.
"//Death through exhaustion of merit//, here, refers to the
death that comes about entirely through the finished
ripening of [former] rebirth-producing kamma even when
favorable conditions for prolonging the continuity of the
life potential may still be present. //Death through
exhaustion of life potential// refers to the death that
comes about through the exhaustion of the natural life
potential of human beings, which amounts to only 100
"//Untimely death// refers to the death of those whose
continuity is interrupted by kamma capable of causing them
to fall from their place [on a particular level of being] at
that very moment...or for the death of those whose
continuity is interrupted by attacks with weapons, etc., due
to previous kamma. All these are included under the [term]
//interruption of the life faculty....//" (VIII.2-3)
As we saw above, the Commentary's discussion of //cutting off the
life faculty// refers specifically to instances where one is
bringing about an untimely death. When it applies this point to the
case of the bhikkhu inciting his patient to give up the will to
live, it notes that the bhikkhu incurs a parajika if his act causes
the patient to cut short his/her life even by a moment through such
things as refusing to eat, etc. However, if the patient, not acting
on the bhikkhu's comments, simply dies in line with his/her natural
life potential and continuity, there is no offense.
It is important to note that the Commentary does not at any point
use the distinction of timely and untimely death to make a case that
mere negligence could be the cause of an untimely demise. Instead,
it restricts its use of "untimely death" to cases where the nurse's
care causes the patient to die earlier than he would have in the
absence of care.
From this point of view it is easy to see that the decision not to
have the patient undergo a particular death-delaying treatment would
not count as an offense, for such a decision would do nothing to
speed up the approach of a timely death. In terms of the factor of
effort under this rule, it would count as inaction and thus not
fulfill the factor. Thus if a bhikkhu sees that his patient is dying
and -- for reasons of the expense, the trauma, or the patient's own
wishes -- opts against having him undergo an operation that would
merely delay death, there is no grounds for offense.
In situations where the choice is not between action and inaction,
but between different courses of action, the Commentary's
distinction is helpful in gauging one's //perceptions// and
//intentions// when choosing among treatments. If a bhikkhu caring
for a terminally ill patient opts for an alternative, such as a
strong pain-killer, in hopes that it will weaken the patient's
system and make him die faster than he would otherwise, his aim
would fulfill the factor of intention under this rule. But if he is
presented with a number of alternatives and believes that none of
them would make the patient die before he would without any
treatment, he may choose any of them because neither the perception
nor the intention of bringing on an untimely death would enter into
his decision. Even if it turns out later that the treatment was
instrumental in bringing on the patient's death, the nurse would
still be without blame.
It may seem that the Vinaya is leaving the patient in an
unprotected position here, but we must remember that this is an area
where the Dhamma takes precedence over the Vinaya in providing the
nurse with guidance. Even a nodding acquaintance with the principle
of kamma should be enough to prevent the nurse from being callous in
his decisions. Even a modicum of maturity will make him realize that
the role of nurse provides an excellent opportunity to gain insight
into illness as a natural part of life, as well as training in such
valuable qualities as compassion, patience, mindfulness, strength,
sacrifice, and sensitivity to the needs of others.
As we noted in the Introduction, rules and standards serve
different purposes and are suited to different situations. The
authors of the texts, after using rules against murderous
malpractice and abandonment to delimit this area, were wise to
sketch in the remaining territory with standards aimed at inspiring
the best behavior in the nurse and his patient by appealing to their
Special cases. The Vinita Vatthu includes three special cases that
touch on this rule but inspired the Buddha to formulate separate
rules to deal specifically with them:
A bhikkhu, for the fun of it, throws a stone from a precipice and
accidentally kills a person standing below -- no penalty for the
death, but a dukkata for throwing a stone from a precipice in fun.
A bhikkhu, hoping to commit suicide, throws himself over a cliff.
Instead of dying, he lands on and kills a hapless basket-maker
standing at the foot of the cliff -- again, no offense for the
death, but a dukkata for throwing oneself from a high place.
A bhikkhu, sitting down hard on a chair without first checking it
carefully, kills a child lying in the chair and covered with a
blanket -- again, no penalty for the death, but a dukkata for
sitting down without first checking carefully.
Summary: Intentionally bringing about the untimely death of
a human being, even if it is still a fetus, is a parajika
* * *
4. Should any bhikkhu, without direct knowledge, boast of a
superior human state, a truly noble knowledge and vision as
present in himself, saying, "Thus do I know; thus do I see,"
such that regardless of whether or not he is cross-examined
on a later occasion, he -- being remorseful and desirous of
purification -- might say, "Friends, not knowing, I said I
know; not seeing, I said I see -- vainly, falsely, idly,"
unless it was from over-estimation, he also is defeated and
no longer in communion.
All conscious lies are forbidden by the first pacittiya rule, but
knowingly to make a false claim to a superior human state is the
most heinous lie a bhikkhu can tell, and so here it receives its own
rule and the heaviest possible penalty.
The seriousness with which the Buddha regarded a breach of this
training rule is indicated by his statements to the original
"You misguided men, how can you for the sake of your stomachs
speak praise of one another's superior human states to householders?
It would be better for you that your bellies be slashed open with a
sharp butcher's knife than that you should for the sake of your
stomachs speak praise of one another's superior human states to
householders. Why is that? For //that// reason you would undergo
death or death-like suffering, but you would not on that account, at
the break-up of the body, after death, fall into deprivation, the
bad bourn, the abyss, purgatory. But for //this// reason you would,
at the break-up of the body, after death, fall into deprivation, the
bad bourn, the abyss, purgatory....Bhikkhus, in this world with its
gods, maras, and brahmas, its generations with priests and
contemplatives, princes and men, this is the ultimate great thief:
he who claims an unfactual, non-existent superior human state. Why
is that? You have consumed the nation's almsfood through theft."
Superior human states. The Vibhanga lists a large number of
superior human states that the Commentary classifies into two broad
categories: //mahaggata dhamma//, those related to the practice of
meditative absorption; and //lokuttara dhamma//, those related to
the absolute eradication of the mental fetters that bind the mind to
the cycle of rebirth.
a. Meditative absorption -- the Pali term is //jhana// -- is of
two major sorts: absorption in a physical object or sensation
(//rupa jhana//) and absorption in a non-physical object or
sensation (//arupa jhana//). Both contain four levels and are
described in the discourses as follows:
"The bhikkhu -- quite withdrawn from sensual pleasure,
withdrawn from unskillful (mental) qualities -- enters and
remains in the //first jhana//: rapture and pleasure born
from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought and
evaluation. He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills
this very body with the rapture and pleasure born from
"And furthermore, with the stilling of directed thought and
evaluation, he enters and remains in the //second jhana//:
rapture and pleasure born of composure, unity of awareness
free from directed thought and evaluation -- internal
assurance. He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills
this very body with the rapture and pleasure born of
"And furthermore, with the fading of rapture, he remains in
equanimity, mindful and fully aware, and physically
sensitive of pleasure. He enters and remains in the //third
jhana//, and of him the Noble Ones declare, 'Equanimous and
mindful, he has a pleasurable abiding.' He permeates and
pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the
pleasure divested of rapture....
"And furthermore, with the abandoning of pleasure and pain
-- as with the earlier disappearance of elation and distress
-- he enters and remains in the //fourth jhana//: purity of
equanimity and mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. He
sits permeating the body with a pure, bright awareness, so
that nothing of his entire body is unpervaded by pure,
bright awareness." (D.2; M.119)
The four levels of arupa jhana are based on the fourth level of
"With the complete transcending of perceptions of (physical)
form, and the passing away of perceptions of resistance, and
not heeding perceptions of diversity, thinking, 'Infinite
space,' one enters and remains in the sphere of the
infinitude of space....
"With the complete transcending of the sphere of the
infinitude of space, thinking, 'Infinite consciousness,' one
enters and remains in the sphere of the infinitude of
"With the complete transcending of the sphere of the
infinitude of consciousness, thinking, 'There is nothing,'
one enters and remains in the sphere of nothingness....
"With the complete transcending of the sphere of
nothingness, one enters and remains in the sphere of neither
perception nor non-perception." (D.15)
The Vibhanga mentions only the four rupa jhanas in its list of
superior human states, but as the four arupa jhanas are based on the
fourth rupa jhana, the Commentary includes them in the list as well.
In addition to these states of absorption themselves, the category
of mahaggata dhamma also includes the intuitive powers (//abhinna//)
that can arise from them:
//iddhividhi// -- the ability to manifest one or more images of
oneself, to appear in a different bodily form, to create a
"mind-made" (astral) body, to pass through solid matter, walk on
water, levitate, etc.
//dibba-sota// -- clairaudience, enabling one to hear sounds both
celestial and human, far and near.
//cetopariya-nana// -- the ability to read the minds of other
//dibba-cakkhu// -- clairvoyance, the ability to see beings in
other realms of existence, and in particular to see them pass from
death in one level to rebirth in another.
//pubbe-nivasanussati-nana// -- the ability to remember previous
There are other occult abilities that are not based on jhana and
for this reason do not count as mahaggata dhamma: such things as
divination, giving protective charms, casting malevolent spells,
psychic healing, practicing as a medium, etc. The discourses list
these and other similar activities as //tiracchana-vijja//, bestial
knowledge, which -- as the name implies -- is far removed from
superior human states.
b. //Lokuttara dhamma//, in its fullest sense, refers to the
series of mental states, called paths and fruitions, in which the
fetters that bind the mind to the cycle of rebirth are eradicated;
and to the ultimate state of //nibbana//, or liberation.
The paths and fruitions occur in four pairs. In the first pair,
the path to and fruition of stream-entry, three fetters are
abandoned: self-identity views (//sakkaya-ditthi//), uncertainty
(//vicikiccha//), and attachment to precepts and practices
(//silabbata-paramasa//). In the second pair, the path to and
fruition of once-returning, two additional fetters -- sensual
passion (//kama-raga//) and irritation (//patigha//) are weakened,
only to be abandoned fully in the third pair, the path to and
fruition of non-returning. In the fourth pair, the path to and
fruition of arahantship, a final set of five additional fetters is
abandoned: //rupa-raga// -- passion for physical phenomena (e.g.,
the objects of rupa jhana); //arupa-raga// -- passion for
non-physical phenomena (e.g., the objects of arupa jhana); //mana//
-- conceit; //uddhacca// -- restlessness; and //avijja// --
unawareness. With the cutting of this last set of fetters, all bonds
with the cycle of rebirth are cut for good, and the mind attains
The term //nibbana// literally means extinguishing, like a fire.
The commentarial literature (Vism.VIII,247), derives the word
etymologically from //nir//, a negative prefix, and //vana//,
binding. Thus it means unbinding or liberation. In the physics of
the Buddha's time, fire as it burned was said to be in a state of
agitation, dependence, attachment, and entrapment -- both clinging
to and being trapped by its sustenance. Extinguished, it was said to
become calm, independent, and unattached. It let go of its
sustenance and was released. In the mind's extinguishing, or
unbinding, a parallel change occurs.
Nibbana is one; the paths and their fruitions, eight. Thus there
are nine lokuttara dhammas.
Aside from jhana, the other states mentioned in the Vibhanga --
such as the destruction of the mental effluents (//asava//), the
signless emancipation, the desireless emancipation, the emptiness
emancipation, and so forth -- are either synonymous with these
transcendent states or -- as in the case of the "wings" to Awakening
(//bodhi-pakkhiya-dhamma//) -- conjoined with them.
The full offense under this rule has five factors:
1) //Effort//: One makes a direct claim
2) //Object//: to a superior human state
3) //Perception//: that one perceives as not present in oneself.
4) //Intention//: One's intention is to misrepresent the truth.
5) //Result//: One's listener understands what one is saying.
Effort. To make a direct claim means to say outright that one has
attained a superior human state, saying such things as, "I have
attained the first jhana," "I have seen the heavenly realms," "I
know my previous lifetimes," etc. Outright claims, here, include not
only spoken statements, but also written statements and physical
gestures. An example of a claim by gesture occurs in the Vibhanga: A
group of bhikkhus make an agreement that the first to set out from
their dwelling would, by that very gesture, be known to the rest as
an arahant. One of the group, who was not an arahant but wanted to
be regarded as one, set out first from the dwelling and was soon
known to the rest as an ex-bhikkhu from having committed a parajika.
//Indirect claims//. An indirect claim to a superior human state
is not grounds for a parajika. If it is a deliberate lie, it is at
most grounds for a thullaccaya. Such claims, which contain an
uncertainty in their wording even though the listener may feel no
uncertainty in understanding their import, may be uncertain in one
of two ways: uncertain as to the person and uncertain as to the
The Vinita Vatthu contains several examples of the first sort: a
bhikkhu states that whoever lives in a particular dwelling is an
arahant, the dwelling being the one where he lives; a bhikkhu saying
that all the disciples of his teacher are arahants, and so forth.
There is only one example in the Vinita Vatthu of a bhikkhu who
makes a claim "uncertain as to the attainment": a sick bhikkhu,
meaning to deceive the fellow bhikkhus nursing him, says to them,
"There is no way that this sickness could be endured by an ordinary
According to the Commentary, if the person to whom such indirect
remarks are directed understands them, the penalty for the speaker
is a thullaccaya. If he/she does not understand them, the penalty is
a dukkata. The factor of understanding is covered in the section on
//Claims about other people//. The original instigators of this
rule, instead of each making claims about his own attainments, made
false claims about one another's attainments. This case is not
mentioned in the Vibhanga or the commentaries and so is not an
offense under this rule, but it would come under Pacittiya 1.
Perception. Claiming a superior human state that one mistakenly
thinks one has achieved is no offense under this rule, although if
addressed to a lay person the claim would come under Pacittiya 8.
The same holds for a claim that is actually true.
If, however, a bhikkhu has attained a superior human state without
realizing it and then claims to have attained the state, thinking
his statement to be a lie, he commits the full offense under this
Intention. To fall under this rule, a claim to have attained any
of these superior human states must be a deliberate lie. "Deliberate
lying," according to the Commentary, requires the arising of the
intention to misrepresent the truth just prior to, and motivating,
the actual statement. When the intention to misrepresent the truth
is absent, the statement does not come under this rule. Examples
would include --
meaning to say one thing, but accidentally saying another
that comes out as a claim to a superior human state; and
innocently making a statement that someone else misconstrues
to be a claim to a superior human state.
Neither of these cases would involve an offense.
//Equivocation//. It is not uncommon for a bhikkhu to be put on
the spot by lay people asking him point-blank about his attainments,
and for him to respond by equivocating. The Vinita Vatthu contains a
number of examples of this sort. In one of them, the bhikkhu
responds by saying, "I have attained a state attainable through the
exertion of effort," which of course could mean almost anything.
Because his purpose was simply to avoid the question, he incurred no
penalty. Had he meant the statement as an indirect claim, he would
have incurred a thullaccaya.
Result. The Vibhanga, in discussing an obscure case, states that
when the listener understands a deliberate lie directly claiming a
superior human state, the bhikkhu making the claim incurs a
parajika. If the listener does not understand, the bhikkhu incurs a
thullaccaya. The Vibhanga mentions this condition only in the
context of a peculiar lie -- one in which the speaker intends to lie
saying one thing but actually states another lie -- but the
Commentary generalizes from this case to say that this condition
applies to //all// cases covered by this rule. Its explanations run
//Understanding//, here, means simply that the listener hears the
statement clearly enough to know that it is a claim. Whether he/she
understands the names for the states claimed -- jhana, clairvoyance,
clairaudience, or whatever -- is not an issue here. The same is true
of whether he/she believes the statement to be true or false. If the
listener to whom the remarks are directed does not understand them,
but a passer-by does, the penalty is still a parajika.
If the listener does not hear the bhikkhu clearly enough to catch
all he says, the penalty is a thullaccaya. If the listener at first
has some doubt as to what the bhikkhu said, but later realizes that
it was a claim to a superior human state, the offense is still a
thullaccaya. If the listener does not hear the bhikkhu at all, the
offense is a dukkata.
As stated above, if a bhikkhu states a deliberate lie in the form
of an indirect claim to a superior human state, he incurs a
thullaccaya if his listener understands that it is a claim, and a
dukkata if not.
According to the Vibhanga, there is a dukkata for a bhikkhu
sitting in solitude who states a deliberate lie directly claiming a
superior human state, and another dukkata if he is overheard by a
devata. The Commentary adds that the same penalty applies if he is
overheard by a non-human being or a common animal.
//Thus, to entail a parajika, the claim to a superior human state
must be a direct claim, a deliberate lie, and must be heard and
quickly understood by another human being//.
Special cases in the Vibhanga:
A bhikkhu, intending to make a false claim for one superior human
state, muddles his words and claims another: a parajika. The
Commentary explains this by noting that all the factors necessary
for a parajika offense are present: The bhikkhu makes a claim based
on the intention to tell a deliberate lie, and the listener
understands the claim. The fact that the intended claim and actual
claim are both superior human states is crucial; the fact that they
are different states is not.
In a series of cases, a person speaking with exaggerated faith or
politeness addresses bhikkhus of no particular attainments as if
they were arahants ("May the arahants come....May the arahants be
seated"). This puts them in a quandary, and so they ask the Buddha
how to behave in such a situation. His response: There is no offense
in accepting invitations such as these from a "speaker with faith"
-- the point being that there is no offense in coming, sitting,
etc., as long as the intention is just to accept the invitation and
not to imply a claim.
A bhikkhu, hoping that people will esteem him, engages in special
practices -- the example given in the Vinita Vatthu is living in the
jungle, but from it we can extrapolate to other practices such as
long periods of sitting, any of the ascetic (//dhutanga//)
practices, vegetarianism, etc., followed so as to impress other
people. The penalty: a dukkata.
Summary: Deliberately lying to another person that one has
attained a superior human state is a parajika offense.
* * *
A bhikkhu who violates any of these four parajika rules is
automatically no longer a bhikkhu. There is no need for him to go
through a formal ceremony of disrobing, for the act of violating the
rule is an act of disrobing in and of itself. Even if he continues
to pretend to be a bhikkhu, he does not really count as one; as soon
as the facts are known he must be expelled from the Sangha. He can
never again properly ordain as a bhikkhu in this life. If he tries
to ordain in a Community that does not know of his offense, his
ordination does not count, and he must be expelled as soon as the
truth is found out.
The Commentary, however, states that such an offender may "go
forth" as a novice if he wants to, although it is up to the
individual Community to consider the circumstances of his offense to
decide whether or not it wants to accept him.
Ignorance of these rules does not exempt an offender from the
penalty, which is why the Buddha ordered that they be taught to each
new bhikkhu as soon as possible after ordination (Mv.I.77). Because
the rules cover a number of cases that are legal in presentday
society (e.g., recommending abortion, proving to oneself how supple
one has become through yoga by inserting one's penis in one's mouth)
or that are common practice among people who see nothing wrong with
flirting with the edges of the law (e.g., copying computer software
for a friend, hiding an article subject to customs duties when
entering a country), it is especially important to inform each new
bhikkhu of the rules' full implications right from the very start.
If a bhikkhu suspects that he has committed a parajika, he should
immediately inform a senior bhikkhu well-versed in the rules. The
way the senior bhikkhu should handle the case is well-illustrated by
a incident reported in the Commentary to Parajika 2: Once a king
together with an enormous crowd came to worship the Great Stupa at a
certain monastery. One of the crowd was a visiting bhikkhu from the
South who was carrying an expensive roll of cloth. The commotion of
the event was so great that the bhikkhu dropped the cloth, was
unable to retrieve it and soon gave it up for lost. One of the
resident bhikkhus happened to come across it and, desiring to steal
it, quickly put it away before the owner might see it. Eventually,
of course, he became tormented by guilt and went to the resident
Vinaya expert to admit a parajika and disrobe.
The Vinaya expert, though, wouldn't let him disrobe until he had
found the owner of the cloth and inquired about it more fully.
Eventually, after a long search, he was able to track down the
original owner at a monastery in the distant South, who told him
that at the time of the theft he had given the cloth up for lost and
had abandoned all mental attachment for it. Thus, as the cloth was
ownerless, the resident bhikkhu had incurred not a parajika, but
simply some dukkatas for the preliminary efforts with intention to
This example shows several things: the great thoroughness with
which a senior bhikkhu should investigate a possible parajika, the
compassion he should show to the offender, and the fact that the
offender should be given the benefit of the doubt wherever possible:
He is innocent until the facts prove him guilty.
Finally, the Commentary concludes its discussion of the parajikas
by noticing that there are altogether 24, actual and virtual, in the
Vinaya. They are:
The four for bhikkhus.
The four additional parajikas for bhikkhunis.
The eleven disqualified types who should not be ordained in the
first place. If they happen to be ordained, their ordination does
not count, and once they are found out they must be expelled for
life (Mv.I.61-68). Thus they are virtual parajikas. They are --
a pandaka (essentially, a eunuch or a person born neuter -- see
a "non-human" being, such as a naga or yakkha, that can assume
a person who poses as a bhikkhu without having been ordained,
a bhikkhu who has ordained in another sect or religion without
first giving up his status as a bhikkhu;
a person who has murdered his father,
a person who has murdered his mother,
a person who has murdered an arahant,
a person who has sexually violated a bhikkhuni,
a person who has injured a Buddha to the point of causing him to
a person who has caused a schism in the Sangha.
In addition to the above actual and virtual parajikas, the
Commentary gives separate listing to the four //anulomika//
(derived) parajikas, which refer to four cases included under
Parajika 1: the bhikkhu with a supple back who sticks his penis in
his mouth, the bhikkhu with a long penis who inserts it into his
anus, the bhikkhu who performs oral intercourse with someone else,
and the bhikkhu who receives anal intercourse.
The 24th Parajika refers to the case of a bhikkhuni who, taking up
the role of a housewife, goes to live in a lay person's household.
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E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank