Part Two: The Silk Chapter
11.Should any bhikkhu have a felt (blanket/rug) made of a
mixture containing silk, it is to be forfeited and
//Santhata//, defined here as a felt blanket/rug, is a type of cloth
described in the texts simply by its method of manufacture: Instead
of being woven, it is made by strewing threads over a smooth
surface, sprinkling them with a glue-like mixture made from boiled
rice, rolling it smooth, and then repeating the process until the
felt is thick and strong enough for one's purposes. Although felt
made like this can be used for a number of purposes, its major use
in the time of the texts seems to have been as a small personal rug
for sitting or lying down, or as a rough blanket for wearing around
oneself when sick or cold. Blanket/ rugs like this are still made
and used in parts of India even today, and as the no-offense clauses
to this and the following rules show, it is precisely to this type
of blanket/rug that these rules apply.
There are three factors for the full offense here:
1) //Object//: a felt blanket/rug containing silk threads and
intended for one's own use.
2) //Effort//: One either makes it oneself, gets someone else to
make it, finishes what others have let unfinished, or gets
someone else to finish what one has left unfinished.
3) //Result//: One obtains it after it is finished (or finishes
it, if one is making it oneself).
According to the Commentary, intention and perception are not
mitigating factors here. Thus if one is making a felt blanket/rug,
and silk threads happen to float in on the breeze and land in the
felt, one commits an offense all the same. Perhaps the Commentary's
interpretation here is why bhikkhus no longer use felt rugs, for
there is no way of knowing whether or not there are any stray silk
filaments in them that would make them unsuitable for use.
There is a dukkata in the effort of making a blanket/rug with silk
mixed in it -- or in having it made -- and once it is obtained (or
finished, if one is making it oneself), it is to be forfeited and
the nissaggiya pacittiya offense confessed. The procedures for
forfeiture, confession, and receiving the blanket/rug in return are
the same as in the preceding rules. Since there is a dukkata in
using //any// felt blanket/rug made with silk in it, the bhikkhu
receiving such a rug in return after forfeiting it may use it only
in the ways described in the no-offense clauses.
According to the Vibhanga, there is a dukkata in making a
blanket/rug with silk mixed in it for another's use, and a dukkata
in acquiring or using such a blanket/rug made for someone else.
Non-offenses. There is no offense in making felt with silk mixed
in it to use as a canopy, a floor-covering, a wall screen, a pillow,
or a kneeling mat.
Summary: Making a felt blanket/rug with silk mixed in it
for one's own use -- or having it made -- is a nissaggiya
* * *
12.Should any bhikkhu have a felt (blanket/rug) made of pure
black wool, it is to be forfeited and confessed.
The origin story to this rule indicates that a pure black felt
blanket/rug was considered stylish at that time, and thus
inappropriate for a bhikkhu's use. This is a recurrent theme
throughout the Vinaya: that stylish, luxurious, or elegant articles
are not in keeping with the bhikkhus' way of life.
All other explanations for this training rule are the same as for
the preceding rule, simply replacing "a felt blanket/rug made with
silk mixed in it" with "a felt blanket made entirely of black wool."
Summary: Making a felt blanket/rug entirely of black wool
for one's own use -- or having it made -- is a nissaggiya
* * *
13.When a bhikkhu is making a new felt (blanket/rug), two
parts of pure black wool are to be incorporated, a third
(part) of white, and a fourth of brown. If a bhikkhu should
have a new felt (blanket/rug) made without incorporating two
parts of pure black wool, a third of white, and a fourth of
brown, it is to be forfeited and confessed.
This is a continuation of the preceding rule and its purpose is to
set the maximum amount of black wool a bhikkhu may include when
making his felt blanket/rug or having it made for his own use. The
Vibhanga gives precise measures for how much black, white, and brown
wool one should use in making the rug, but the Commentary says that
these quantities are relative: As long as black wool constitutes no
more than half the total amount of wool used, the bhikkhu making the
rug commits no offense.
As in the preceding rules, there is a dukkata in acquiring and
using a felt blanket/rug that is more than one-half black wool no
matter who it is made for. Thus if a bhikkhu makes such a rug,
forfeits it, and receives it in return, he may use it only in the
ways indicated by the no-offense clauses.
Non-offenses. The Vibhanga states that there is no offense if the
rug is more than one-quarter white wool, more than one-quarter brown
wool, or made entirely of white wool or of brown. The Sub-commentary
here reiterates that the important point is that the rug be no more
than one-half black wool. There is also no offense if one is making
the felt -- or having it made -- for a canopy, a floor-covering, a
wall screen, a pillow, or a kneeling mat.
Summary: Making a felt blanket/rug that is more than
one-half black wool for one's own use -- or having it made
-- is a nissaggiya pacittiya offense.
* * *
14.When a new felt (blanket/rug) has been made by a bhikkhu,
it is to be kept for (at least) six years. If after less
than six years he should have another new felt (blanket/rug)
made, regardless of whether or not he has disposed of the
first, then -- unless he has been authorized by the bhikkhus
-- it is to be forfeited and confessed.
"Now at that time bhikkhus were (each) having a new felt
blanket/rug made every year. They were constantly begging,
constantly hinting, 'Give wool. We need wool.' People were
offended and annoyed and spread it about, 'How can these
Sakyan contemplatives have a new felt blanket/rug made every
year?...The felt blanket/rugs we make for ourselves last
five or six years, even though our children wet them and
soil them, and they get chewed on by rats. But these Sakyan
contemplatives have a new felt blanket/rug made every year
and are constantly begging, constantly hinting, 'Give wool.
We need wool.'"
There are three factors for an offense here.
1) //Object//: a new felt blanket/rug for one's own use.
2) //Effort//: One makes it or has it made less than six
//vassa// after one's last one was made, even though one has not
been formally authorized by the bhikkhus to do so.
3) //Result//: One acquires the rug when it is finished.
The texts are silent on the factor of perception here, which
suggests that if a bhikkhu miscounts the passage of years -- making
a new rug when six years haven't passed even though he thinks they
have -- he fulfills the factor of effort all the same.
According to the Vibhanga, there is a dukkata in the effort of
making the rug or having it made. Once it is obtained (or finished,
if one is making it oneself), it is to be forfeited and the
nissaggiya pacittiya offense confessed. The procedures for
forfeiture, confession, and receiving the blanket/rug in return are
the same as in the preceding rules. Since the no-offense clauses
allow one under these conditions to use a felt blanket/rug made for
someone else, it would seem that the rug here, unlike those
forbidden by the preceding rules, is not //ipso facto// unusable as
a rug. Thus a bhikkhu who has forfeited his rug under this rule
should be able to use it as a blanket/rug after receiving it in
Non-offenses. There is no offense if a bhikkhu makes a new felt
blanket/rug after six or more years have past; if he makes one for
another's use; if he uses one made for someone else; or if he makes
felt to use as a canopy, a floor-covering, a wall screen, a pillow,
or a kneeling mat.
Also, as the rule indicates, there is also no offense if within
less than six years he makes a felt blanket/rug for his own use
after being authorized to do so by the bhikkhus. The Vibhanga
explains this by saying that the Community, if it sees fit, may
formally give this authorization to a bhikkhu who is too ill to do
without a new felt blanket/rug before his six years are up. The
pattern for this formal act -- one motion and one announcement
(//natti-dutiya-kamma//) -- is in the Vibhanga.
Summary: Unless one has received authorization to do so
from the Community, making a felt blanket/rug for one's own
use -- or having it made -- less than six years after one's
last one was made is a nissaggiya pacittiya offense.
* * *
15. When a felt sitting rug is being made by a bhikkhu, a
piece of old felt a sugata span (25 cm.) on each side is to
be incorporated for the sake of discoloring it. If, without
incorporating a piece of old felt a sugata span on each
side, he should have a new felt sitting rug made, it is to
be forfeited and confessed.
A sitting cloth -- for protecting his robes from getting soiled by
any place where he sits down, and for protecting any place where he
sits down from being soiled by him -- is one of the requisites a
bhikkhu is allowed to have (Mv.VII.16.3). In fact, if he goes
without one for more than four months, he incurs a dukkata
(Cv.V.18). Pacittiya 89 gives stipulations for its size, and for
the fact that it should have at least one border piece.
There is some question as to whether the felt sitting rug
described in this rule counts as a sitting cloth. The Commentary to
Pacittiya 89 says yes, the Sub-commentary no, but the Vibhanga's
definition for sitting cloth under that rule states simply that it
"has a border," and since the felt sitting rug also "has a border,"
it would seem to come under that definition, too.
The Commentary to that rule describes the border piece of a felt
sitting rug as follows: "Having made a felt rug, then on one end in
an area of one sugata span, cutting it at two points, one makes
three border pieces." Whether these three pieces are to be left
flapping, or are to be sewn back together, it doesn't say.
According to the Vibhanga, when one is making a felt sitting rug,
one should take a piece of old felt -- at least one span in diameter
or one span square -- and then either place it down in one part of
the new felt as is, or else shred it up and scatter the pieces
throughout the new felt. This, it says, will help to strengthen the
//Old felt// the Vibhanga defines as worn wrapped around oneself
at least once: This is one of the few places indicating that felt
was commonly used as a blanket. The Commentary rewords the
Vibhanga's definition, saying "sat on or lied down upon at least
once," which -- at least in the days of the commentators -- was the
more common usage. The Commentary adds that, in addition to wanting
to discolor the new felt sitting rug and make it stronger, one of
the Buddha's purposes in formulating this rule was to teach bhikkhus
how to make good use of old, used requisites, so as to maintain the
good faith of those who donated them.
Offenses. As with the previous rules, there is a dukkata for the
bhikkhu who makes a sitting rug -- or has one made -- that violates
this rule, whether it is for his own use or for that of another; and
a nissaggiya pacittiya offense when he acquires the rug thus made
for his own use (or finishes it, if he is making it himself). The
procedures for forfeiture, confession, and receiving the rug in
return are the same as in the preceding rules. Since the no-offense
clauses here, as under the preceding rule, allow one to use a felt
sitting rug made without old felt for the sake of another, it would
seem that a bhikkhu, having forfeited his rug, should be able to use
it as a sitting rug after receiving it in return.
Non-offenses. There is no offense if, being unable to find a
large enough piece of old felt to provide the one-span piece, one
includes a smaller piece of old felt in the sitting rug; if, being
unable to find any old felt at all, one does not include any old
felt in the rug; if one makes use of a felt sitting rug made without
old felt for the sake of another; or if one is making a canopy, a
floor-covering, a wall screen, a pillow, or a kneeling mat. It
seems logical that there would also be no offense for the bhikkhu
making a felt blanket/rug that does not have any border pieces and
that he is not planning to use for sitting, but for some reason none
of the texts mention this point.
Summary: Making a felt sitting rug for one's own use -- or
having it made -- without incorporating a one-span piece of
old felt is a nissaggiya pacittiya offense.
* * *
16. If wool accrues to a bhikkhu as he is going on a
journey, he may accept it if he so desires. Once he accepts
it, he may carry it by hand -- there being no one else to
carry it -- three leagues (48 km.=30 miles) at most. Should
he carry it farther than that, even if there is no one else
to carry it, it is to be forfeited and confessed.
"At that time wool accrued to a bhikkhu as he was on the
road in the Kosalan districts, going to Savatthi. So, tying
the wool into a bundle with his upper robe, he went along
his way. People who saw him teased him, 'How much did you
pay for it, venerable sir? How much will the profit be?'"
There are, in essence, three factors for an offense here: object,
effort, and intention.
Object. //Wool//, under this rule, refers to wool that has not
been made into goods (%). The Commentary explains that wool here
thus does not refer to woolen cloth, woolen felt, woolen yarn, or
even raw wool tied up with a thread, although this last point is in
contradiction to the origin story, where the bhikkhu carried his
wool tied up with a robe.
The Commentary goes on to say, though, that wool here //does//
refer to even small quantities of "unmade" wool, such as wool placed
in the ear when one has an earache, or wrapped around scissors in
their sheath to protect them from rusting, so a bhikkhu should be
careful not to travel more than three leagues with such things.
Effort. This factor includes not only carrying unmade wool more
than three leagues oneself, but also placing it in a bundle or
vehicle belonging to someone else without his/her knowing about it,
and then letting him/her take it more than three leagues.
Perception is not a mitigating factor here: If one travels more
than three leagues, even if one thinks one hasn't, that fulfills
this factor all the same.
Intention. The Vibhanga says that there is no offense for the
bhikkhu who, after traveling three leagues, cannot find a proper
place to stay and so carries his wool further until finding a proper
place. Thus the offense under this rule is only for a bhikkhu who
carries wool past the three-league mark for reasons other than
looking for a place to stay.
Non-offenses. In addition to the issue of intention just
mentioned, the no-offense clauses say that there is no offense for
the bhikkhu who is retrieving lost or stolen wool; for the bhikkhu
who carries the wool three leagues and then carries it back; or for
the bhikkhu who gets someone else to carry the wool for him.
Summary: Carrying wool that has not been made into cloth or
yarn for more than three leagues is a nissaggiya pacittiya
* * *
17.Should any bhikkhu have wool washed, dyed, or carded by a
bhikkhuni unrelated to him, it is to be forfeited and
The reason behind this rule is expressed succinctly in the following
conversation from the origin story:
"Then Mahapajapati Gotami went to the Blessed One, and on
approaching, greeting him, stood to one side. As she was
standing there, the Blessed One said to her, 'I trust,
Gotami, that the bhikkhunis remain uncomplacent, ardent, and
"'Since when, Lord, is there uncomplacency among the
bhikkhunis? The masters -- the group-of-six bhikkhus --
keep having the bhikkhunis wash, dye, and card wool. The
bhikkhunis, washing, dyeing, and carding wool, neglect...the
training in heightened virtue, the training in heightened
mind, and the training in heightened discernment.'"
//Wool//, here, as in under the preceding rule, refers to wool
that has not been made into cloth or yarn. Thus there is no offense
for a bhikkhu who gets a bhikkhuni unrelated to him to wash woolen
cloth or yarn that has not yet been used.
Otherwise, all the explanations for this training rule are
identical with those for NP 4, except that here "beating" is
replaced by "carding."
Summary: Getting an unrelated bhikkhuni to wash, dye, or
card wool that has not been made into cloth or yarn is a
nissaggiya pacittiya offense.
* * *
18. Should any bhikkhu take gold and silver, or have it
taken, or consent to its being deposited (near him), it is
to be forfeited and confessed.
As mentioned under NP 10, one of the purposes of this rule is to
relieve a bhikkhu of the burden of ownership that comes as the
result of accepting gifts of money or having them accepted in one's
name. The discourses contain passages, though, indicating other
purposes for this rule as well:
"For whomever gold and silver are suitable, headman, the
five strands of sensuality are also suitable. And for
whomever the five strands of sensuality are suitable, gold
and silver are suitable. You may take it for certain that
this is not the way of a contemplative, not the way of a son
of the Sakyan." (S.XLII.10)
"Bhikkhus, there are these four stains because of which the
sun and moon do not glow, do not shine, are not radiant.
What four? Rain clouds...snow clouds...smoke and dust...an
eclipse. In the same way, there are these four stains
because of which contemplatives and priests do not glow, do
not shine, are not radiant. What four? Drinking alcoholic
beverages...indulging in sexual intercourse... accepting
gold and silver...obtaining requisites through a wrong mode
of livelihood." (A.IV.50)
Bhikkhus, in abandoning the use of money, make real their
abandonment of worldly pursuits and show others by example that the
struggle for wealth is not the true way to find happiness.
The factors for an offense under this rule are two: object and
Object. The Vibhanga defines //gold// so that it includes anything
made of gold. //Silver// it defines to cover coins made of silver,
copper, wood, or lac, or whatever is used as a medium of exchange in
business. The Commentary adds such examples as bones, pieces of
hide, fruit, seeds of trees used as currency, whether they have been
stamped with a figure or not. At present, the term would include
coins and paper currency, but not checks, credit cards, bank drafts,
or promissory notes, as these -- on their own and without further
identification of the person carrying them -- do not function as
The Commentary, in discussing this training rule, also gathers a
list of items from the Canon carrying a dukkata, rather than a
nissaggiya pacittiya, when accepted by a bhikkhu. They include
pearls and precious stones, unhusked grain, slaves, fields,
orchards, and livestock. For convenience's sake, we will refer to
these items from here on as dukkata objects (//dukkata-vatthu//), or
D.O. for short.
Effort. This factor may be fulfilled by any of three actions:
1) //Accepting//. According to the K/Commentary, this includes
receiving gold or money when it is offered as a gift or picking up
gold or money left lying around ownerless. (As the no-offense
clauses show, this factor does not cover cases where one picks up
money left lying around the monastery or a house where one is
visiting if one's purpose is to keep it in safekeeping for the
owner. See Pacittiya 84.) According to the Commentary, a bhikkhu
who accepts money wrapped up in a bolt of cloth would also commit an
offense here, which shows that this act includes receiving or taking
the money not only with one's body, but also with items connected
with the body. Thus accepting money in an envelope or having it
placed in one's shoulder bag as it hangs from one's shoulder would
fulfill this factor as well.
The Vibhanga states that perception is not a mitigating factor.
Thus a bhikkhu accepting an envelope that unbeknownst to him
contains money would fall under this factor, too.
The K/Commentary adds the stipulation that in the taking there
must be some movement of the money from one place to another. It
offers no explanation for this point, but it probably refers to
cases where money is forced on a bhikkhu, as when he is on alms
round and a lay donor, against the bhikkhu's protestations, places
money in his bowl. In this case, the bhikkhu could simply stand
right there until he gets the donor or someone else to remove the
money, and he would be absolved of an offense under this rule.
The commentaries add an extra factor -- the full offense is
entailed only if the bhikkhu is taking the money for his own sake --
but there is no mention of this in the Vibhanga, so the added factor
does not seem warranted. Thus whether the bhikkhu takes the money
for himself or for others is not an issue here.
2) //Having money accepted//, according to the K/Commentary,
includes getting someone else to do any of the actions covered under
accepting, as described above. Examples from the texts include such
things as telling the donor to give the money to a steward, telling
the donor that so-and-so will take the money for him, telling the
steward to take the money, to put it in a donation box, to "do what
he thinks appropriate," or any similar command.
Anything that falls short of a command, though, would not fulfill
this factor, as we have already seen under NP 10. Thus simply
telling the donor that X is the bhikkhus' steward -- or that the
monastery's stewards have placed a donation box in such-and-such a
place -- would not be a factor for an offense here. Also, if the
donor leaves money, say, on a table as a gift for a bhikkhu, then if
the bhikkhu tells his steward what the donor did and said, without
telling the steward to do anything with the money -- letting the
steward figure things out on his/her own -- this too would not
entail a penalty. The Commentary's discussion of stewards under the
next point shows that while a bhikkhu who tells a volunteer steward
to put such a donation in a donation box would incur a penalty, a
bhikkhu who simply points out the donation box would not.
3) //Consenting to money being deposited//. The Vibhanga defines
this action as follows: "He (the donor), saying, 'This is for the
master,' places it, and the bhikkhu consents." (%) According to the
K/Commentary, //placing// covers two sorts of situations:
(1) The donor places money anywhere in the bhikkhu's presence, and
says, "This is for the master;" OR
(2) The donor tells him, "I have some money placed in
such-and-such a location. It's yours." (One of the implications
of this second case is that any monastery with a donation box
should make clear that money left in the box is being placed with
//Consenting// in either of these cases, says the Commentary,
means that one does not refuse either in thought, word, or deed.
Refusing in thought means thinking, "This is not proper for me."
Refusing in word means telling the donor that such a gift is not
allowable. Refusing in deed means making a gesture to the same
effect. If one refuses in any of these ways -- e.g., one wants to
accept the money, but tells the donor that it is not allowable; or
one says nothing, but simply reminds oneself that such gifts are not
proper to accept -- one avoids the penalty here.
The question of whether or not it is best to express one's refusal
outwardly lies beyond the scope of the Vinaya, and often depends on
the situation. Ideally, one should inform the donor so that he/she
will know enough not to present such gifts in the future, but there
are also cases where the donor is still new to the idea of rules and
will simply be offended if the bhikkhu objects to what he/she means
as a well-intentioned gesture. This is thus a matter where a
bhikkhu should use his discretion.
The Commentary contains a long discussion of what a bhikkhu should
do if, after he refuses such a donation, the donor goes off leaving
it there anyway: If someone else comes along and asks the bhikkhu,
"What is this?", the bhikkhu may tell him/her what he and the donor
said, but may not ask him/her to do anything about it. If the
person volunteers to put the money into safekeeping, the bhikkhu may
point out a safe place but may not tell him/her to put it there.
Once the money is in a safe place, one may point it out to other
people -- one's steward, for instance -- but may not tell anyone to
take it. The Commentary gives directions for how to arrange an
exchange with such money so as not to violate NP 19 & 20, but I will
save this part of the discussion until we come to those rules.
The Vibhanga's definition of the action of "placing" money for a
bhikkhu indicates that in this case the question of who the money is
for //does// make a difference, since the nature of the donor's
action is defined by what he or she says. If the donor means the
money for the bhikkhu, and the bhikkhu accepts, that fulfills the
factor here. This covers cases where the donor says, "This is for
you," or "This is for you to give to X."
If the donor simply says, "This is for the Community," or "This is
for Bhikkhu Y," and Bhikkhu X consents to its being placed down near
him, then according to the Commentary, X incurs a dukkata. It does
not say, though, what should be done with the money, aside from the
fact that any bhikkhu who uses anything bought with it also incurs a
dukkata. Its discussion of the following rule, though, would seem
to imply that it should be returned to the original donor.
If money for Bhikkhu Y is placed near Bhikkhu X in this way, and Y
in turn accepts the donation for himself, then of course Y would
incur the full penalty under this rule. The Commentary's discussion
under NP 10 indicates that if money for the Community is placed near
Bhikkhu X, the Community is said to have accepted it only when all
members of the Community unanimously agree to it. If one member
disagrees, he saves all the other members from committing an offense
-- except for X, who still has his dukkata.
The Commentary here also says that a bhikkhu who accepts monetary
donations "placed nearby" him for monastery buildings incurs a
dukkata as well. This refers to cases where the donor says, "This
is for the Community to use in building such-and-such," and places
the money down next to the bhikkhu. As the Commentary itself says
under NP 10, if the donor does not mention the name of the bhikkhu
or the Community as custodians or recipients of the funds, the
donations are not to be refused. Rather, they are to be left there
and the steward told of what the donor said.
Forfeiture & confession. A bhikkhu who accepts money or gold, has
it accepted, or consents to its being placed down for him must
forfeit the money and confess the offense in the midst of a formal
meeting of the Community. The formula for forfeiture is given in
Appendix VI. This is one of the few rules where the offender may
not confess the offense to an individual bhikkhu or to a group of
less than four. Once he has forfeited the money, the Community is
not to return it to him, as there is no way a bhikkhu is allowed to
If a lay person then comes along, the bhikkhus should tell him,
"Look at this." If he asks, "What should be bought with this?", the
bhikkhus are not to tell him to buy anything, although they may tell
him what in general is allowable for bhikkhus, such as the five
tonics, as under NP 23 below. If he takes the money and purchases
any proper items, all the bhikkhus except for the one who originally
accepted the money may make use of them. If it so happens that one
of the bhikkhus tells him explicitly to buy something, then the
Commentary says that the item(s) bought this way may be used by all
the bhikkhus except for the original offender and the bhikkhu who
gave the order to buy. If the lay person does not volunteer to buy
anything with the money, the bhikkhus should tell him to get rid of
If he does not get rid of it, they are to choose one of their
number as the "money-remover," by means of the formal act -- one
motion and one announcement (//natti-dutiya-kamma//) -- given in the
Vibhanga. The money-remover's duty is to throw the money away
without taking note of where it falls. If he does take note, he
incurs a dukkata. The Commentary recommends that, "Closing his
eyes, he should throw it into a river, over a cliff, or into a
jungle thicket without paying attention to where it falls,
disinterested as if it were excrement."
None of the texts mention what a bhikkhu is to do with dukkata
objects he has received, but as we shall see under the following
rule, the Commentary would seem to suggest that he return them to
Non-offenses. As mentioned above, there is no offense for the
bhikkhu who, finding money lying around the monastery or in a house
he is visiting, puts it away in safe keeping for the owner. This
point is discussed in detail under Pacittiya 84.
Summary: Taking gold or money, having someone else take it,
or consenting to its being placed down as a gift for oneself
is a nissaggiya pacittiya offense.
* * *
19. Should any bhikkhu engage in various types of monetary
exchange, it (the income) is to be forfeited and confessed.
There are two factors for an offense here: object and effort.
Object. The Vibhanga defines //money// in the same terms it uses
to define gold and silver in the preceding rule: any type of gold,
whether shaped into an ornament or not; and any coins or currency
used in business exchange.
Effort. The Vibhanga's description of the kind of exchange
covered by this rule differs from that given in the Commentary, so
it is best to discuss them separately.
//The Vibhanga's interpretation//. Monetary exchange refers
primarily to the type of business and speculation a gold dealer
would engage in -- exchanging currency, trading gold ore for gold
shaped into ornaments or vice versa, trading gold ore for gold ore,
or gold ornaments for gold ornaments -- but the Vibhanga's
discussion of the factor of perception shows that the factor of
effort here includes any exchange in which the bhikkhu ends up with
gold or money as the result of the exchange. Thus it would cover
cases where a bhikkhu sells any kind of item -- allowable or
unallowable -- for money.
At first glance, this would seem redundant with the preceding rule
against receiving money, and the following rule against engaging in
trade, but actually it closes a number of loopholes in those rules.
In the preceding rule, a bhikkhu may point out a steward to a person
who brings money intended for him; and in the following rule he can,
if he words it right, propose a trade or tell a steward to arrange a
trade for him. Thus, given just those two rules, it would be
possible for a bhikkhu using "proper" procedures to have his steward
engage in currency speculation and other money-making activities
without committing an offense.
This rule, though, includes no such exceptions for "wording things
right (//kappiya-vohara//)," and so closes those loopholes as far as
this type of trading is concerned. As a result, a bhikkhu may not
express a desire to his steward that he/she sell something belonging
to him or take funds dedicated for his use and invest them for
monetary return. And if the bhikkhu is going abroad, he must leave
it up to his steward to figure out that his funds may have to be
exchanged for foreign currency if they are going to be of any use.
//The Commentary's interpretation//. According to the Commentary,
monetary exchange refers to any trade in which money is involved --
whether as the item the bhikkhu brings into the trade, gets out of
the trade, or both. Buddhaghosa states that this interpretation is
based on a passage that is not in the Vibhanga but logically should
be. The Sub-commentary supports him, explaining that if monetary
exchange covers trades in which money forms one side of the trade,
it shouldn't matter which side of the trade it is on.
This, however, contradicts a number of points in the Vibhanga. (1)
Its table of the possible actions covered by this rule includes only
cases where the outcome of the trade for the bhikkhu is money. As
we noted in the Introduction, we have to trust that the Vibhanga
arrangers knew what was and was not an offense under a certain rule,
and that if they had meant the rule to cover more than the
alternatives listed in the table, they would have included them.
(2) In the Vibhanga's discussion of how the forfeiture is to be
conducted, it consistently refers to the offender as the "one who
purchased money" and to the bhikkhu who throws the forfeited object
away as the "one who removes the money." (3) If //monetary
exchange// covers cases where the bhikkhu uses money to buy
allowable things, then the discussion of how a bhikkhu could get his
steward to use money rightfully placed with the steward to buy such
things would have been included under this rule; instead, it is
included under the following rule. All of this seems to indicate
that the Commentary is on shaky ground when it tries to force its
interpretation on the Vibhanga here.
Still, the Commentary's interpretation is widely followed and
fairly complex, so it will be good to discuss it in some detail.
As under the preceding rule, the Commentary divides articles into
//nissaggiya objects// (N.O.), i.e., articles such as gold and
money, which entail a nissaggiya pacittiya when they are
//dukkata objects// (D.O.), articles such as pearls, precious
stones, unhusked grain, fields, orchards, slaves and livestock,
which entail a dukkata when they are accepted;
//allowable objects// (A.O.), articles that a bhikkhu may
rightfully accept and possess.
It then works out the following scheme to cover all possible sorts
of trade involving these objects:
Using to buy results in
~~~~~ ~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~
N.O. > N.O. a nissaggiya pacittiya
N.O. > D.O. a nissaggiya pacittiya
N.O. > A.O. a nissaggiya pacittiya
D.O. > N.O. a nissaggiya pacittiya
D.O. > D.O. a dukkata*
D.O. > A.O. a dukkata*
A.O. > N.O. a nissaggiya pacittiya
A.O. > D.O. a dukkata*
A.O. > A.O. a nissaggiya pacittiya under NP 20
The trades marked with asterisks point out one of the anomalies of
the Commentary's interpretation: Why trades involving D.O. should
entail only a dukkata, while A.O. > A.O. trades should entail a
nissaggiya pacittiya is hard to fathom.
At any rate, to continue with the Commentary's explanations: N.O.
> A.O. trades cover two possible cases, depending on whether the
money was obtained properly or improperly under the preceding rule.
If improperly, the object bought with the money is unallowable for
all bhikkhus. This holds whether the bhikkhu makes the purchase
himself or a steward makes it for him. The only way the item can be
made allowable is to have an equal sum of money returned to the
original donor and the item returned to the person who sold it, and
then arrange for a proper exchange as allowed under the following
rule. (At first glance, it may seem strange for the Commentary to
insist that the price of the A.O. be returned to the original donor
of the N.O., since the bhikkhus are in no way in his/her debt; this
is probably the Commentary's way of ensuring that if the seller
returns the purchase price of the A.O. to the bhikkhus' steward, it
is not used to repurchase the A.O.)
If, however, a bhikkhu engages in a N.O. > A.O. trade using money
obtained properly under the preceding rule, the item bought is
unallowable only for him, but allowable for other bhikkhus once he
has forfeited it. If N.O. > A.O. exchanges really were covered by
this rule, though, this would contradict the Vibhanga, which insists
that the item obtained as a result of this rule either has to be
given to a lay person or thrown away. Thus it seems better to
follow the Vibhanga in treating cases of this sort under the
The Commentary makes no mention of what should be done with items
resulting from trades that carry a dukkata here, but its discussion
of how to "undo" a trade so as to make the item allowable suggests
the following scheme:
For a D.O > D.O. trade: Return the object bought to the person
who sold it, return the original object to the donor, and confess
For a D.O. > A.O. trade: Return the object bought to the person
who sold it, return the original object to the donor, and confess
the offense. If one wants to, one may then approach the person
who sold the allowable object and arrange a proper trade in
accordance with the following rule.
For an A.O. > D.O. trade: Return the object bought to the person
who sold it and confess the offense.
As an intellectual exercise, the Commentary considers the question
of a trade that results in an A.O. that can never be made allowable,
and comes up with the following scenario: A bhikkhu takes money
improperly obtained under the preceding rule, uses it to get iron
mined, smelted and made into a bowl. Since there is no way to undo
these transactions -- the iron can never be returned to its state as
ore -- there is no way any bhikkhu may ever properly make use of the
iron no matter what is done with it.
As mentioned above, the Commentary's explanations here contradict
the Vibhanga on a number of points, and contain several anomalies as
well. It seems preferable to treat a number of cases it mentions
here -- N.O. > D.O., N.O. > A.O., D.O. > D.O., D.O. > A.O., A.O. >
D.O., or in other words, any trade resulting in an allowable or a
dukkata object -- under the following rule instead.
Forfeiture & confession. When a bhikkhu has obtained gold or
money in violation of this rule he is to forfeit it in the midst of
a formal meeting of the Community, following the procedures
explained under the preceding rule. The Pali formula for forfeiture
is in Appendix VI.
Non-offenses. The Vibhanga's no-offense clauses contain nothing
but the blanket exemptions mentioned under Parajika 1.
Summary: Obtaining gold or money through trade is a
nissaggiya pacittiya offense.
* * *
20. Should any bhikkhu engage in various types of trade,
(the article obtained) is to be forfeited and confessed.
"Now at that time Ven. Upananda the Sakyan had become
skilled at robe making. Having made an outer robe of old
rags, having dyed it well and stitched it nicely, he wore
it. A certain wanderer, wearing a very expensive cloak,
went to where he was staying and on arrival said to him,
'Your outer robe is beautiful, my friend. Give it to me in
exchange for this cloak.'
"'Do you know (what you are doing), my friend?'
"'Yes, I know.'
"'Very well, then.' And he gave him the robe.
"Then the wanderer went to the wanderers' park wearing the
outer robe. The other wanderers said to him, 'Your outer
robe is beautiful, friend. Where did you get it?'
"'I got it in exchange for my cloak.'
"'But how long will this outer robe last you? That cloak of
yours was better.'
"So the wanderer, thinking, 'It's true what the wanderers
said. How long will this outer robe last me? That cloak of
mine was better,' went to where Ven. Upananda the Sakyan was
staying, and on arrival said, 'Here is your outer robe, my
friend. Give me my cloak.'
"'But didn't I ask you, "Do you know what you are doing?" I
won't give it to you.'
"So the wanderer was offended and annoyed and spread it
about, 'Even a householder will give another householder the
item he regrets (trading). How can one who has gone forth
not give (extend the same courtesy) to one who has gone
As we noted under NP 10, one of the purposes of this rule is to
relieve bhikkhus of the responsibilities that come with making
trades -- the responsibility of having to get a fair price for one's
goods and at the same time offering a fair deal to the person making
The factors for an offense here are two: object and effort.
Object. The Vibhanga defines //various types of trade// as
covering deals involving the four requisites, "even a lump of
powder, a tooth-cleaner or unwoven thread" -- these being its
standard examples of objects with the least possible material value.
The Commentary interprets this as limiting this rule to deals
involving nothing but allowable objects (A.O. > A.O.), but there is
nothing in the Vibhanga to suggest that this is necessarily so. The
emphasis in the Vibhanga seems to be that this rule covers even
allowable objects of the least possible value, and all the more so
more valuable and restricted objects. In fact, since the Vibhanga
explicitly limits the preceding rule to trades that result in money
for the bhikkhu (N.O. > N.O.; D.O. > N.O.; A.O. > N.O.), it seems
best to interpret this rule as covering all types of trade not
covered in that rule:
N.O. > D.O.; N.O. > A.O.;
D.O. > D.O.; D.O. > A.O.;
A.O. > D.O.; and A.O. > A.O.
The Vibhanga and commentaries also mention that the goods one
offers in trade are one's own goods, but they do not mention
explicitly whether or not this also includes goods belonging to
someone else that have been placed on trust in one's keeping (such
as monastery funds placed under the supervision of a monastery
official). Since the no-offense clauses make no exemptions for a
bhikkhu who trades using goods received on trust from someone else,
though, it would seem that such cases do fall under this rule as
Effort. //Engaging in trading//, according to the Vibhanga,
involves two steps:
(1) The bhikkhu proposes an exchange, saying, "Give this for
that," or "Take this for that," or "Exchange this for that," or
"Purchase this with that."
(2) The goods exchange hands, the bhikkhu's goods ending up with
the other person, and the other person's goods ending up with the
The first step entails a dukkata; both steps together, a
nissaggiya pacittiya. Perception is not a mitigating factor here:
If a bhikkhu manages an exchange in a way that he thinks avoids a
penalty under this rule but in fact doesn't (see below), he commits
the full offense all the same.
Forfeiture & confession. Once a bhikkhu has received an article
from trading, he is to forfeit it either to an individual bhikkhu,
to a group of two or three, or to a full Community of four or more.
Only then may he confess the offense. The procedures for
forfeiture, confession, and the return of the article are the same
as under NP 1. The Pali formula for forfeiture is in Appendix VI.
The Vibhanga makes no mention of what the bhikkhu may and may not do
with after receiving it in return, but we may borrow a page from the
Commentary's discussion of the preceding rule and say that:
//If the exchange was N.O. > D.O.//, he should return the D.O. to
its seller. If the N.O. was properly obtained under NP 18, there
is nothing further to be done. If not, the bhikkhu should
confess the offense for violating that rule. (If he accepts the
purchase price in return, he must forfeit it in the midst of the
Community. If not, he should simply confess the pacittiya
//If the exchange was N.O. > A.O.//, then if the N.O. was obtained
in violation of NP 18, no bhikkhu may make use of the A.O. unless
it is returned to the seller, the price of the article is turned
over to the original donor of the money, and the A.O. is then
repurchased in a way that does not violate this rule. (Again, if
the seller refunds the purchase price, the offender should
forfeit it in the midst of the Community. If not, he should
simply confess the pacittiya offense.)
//If the N.O. in this case was properly obtained//, then the
purchased article is allowable for other bhikkhus, but not for
the offender. (Some might object that if the N.O. was properly
obtained it should be treated as A.O., but we must remember that
a bhikkhu who orders his steward to use money to buy an object is
assuming ownership of the money, which goes against the spirit of
NP 18 and the protocol of having a steward in the first place.)
//If the exchange was D.O. > D.O.//, the bhikkhu should return the
purchased article to the seller and the original article (if the
seller returns it to him) to the original donor.
//If the exchange was D.O. > A.O.//, the purchased article is not
allowable for any bhikkhu unless it is returned to the seller,
the D.O. is returned to the original donor, and the A.O. is then
repurchased in a way that does not violate this rule.
//If the exchange was A.O. > D.O.//, the bhikkhu should return the
purchased article to the seller.
//If the exchange was A.O. > A.O.//, the bhikkhu may make use of
the article as he likes.
//If the exchange was wages in payment for services rendered//,
the Commentary notes that there is no way the bhikkhu can
rightfully get the payment back, so he should simply confess a
Non-offenses. In the origin story to NP 5, the Buddha allows
bhikkhus to trade allowable articles with other bhikkhus,
bhikkhunis, female probationers, and male or female novices. The
present rule thus covers trades made only with people who are not
As for trades with people who are not one's co-religionists, the
Vibhanga here adds that a bhikkhu commits no offense --
if he asks the price of an object;
if he tells a steward (wording the request properly, as under NP
or if he tells the seller, "I have this. I have need of
such-and-such," and then lets the seller arrange the exchange as
he/she sees fit.
This last point may seem like a lot of hair splitting, but we must
remember that if a trade is arranged in this way, the bhikkhu is
absolved from any responsibility for the fairness of the deal, which
seems to be the whole point of the rule.
The Commentary, in discussing these exemptions, raises the
1) A bhikkhu who tries to avoid the technicalities of what is
defined as engaging in trading by saying simply, "Give this.
Take that," may do so only with his close relatives. Otherwise,
telling a lay person to take one's belongings as his/her own is a
"theft of faith" (//saddha-deyya//) -- i.e., a misuse of the
donations that lay supporters have sacrificed for the bhikkhu's
use. (See Mv.VIII.22.1) On the other hand, telling an unrelated
lay person to give something is a form of begging, which carries
a dukkata unless the lay person is related or has invited one to
ask in the first place. (From this we may deduce that bhikkhus
should not bargain after having asked the price of goods or
services -- e.g., a taxi fare -- even in situations where
bargaining is the norm.)
2) A bhikkhu desiring to get an article may tell his steward,
"Having taken that, give (the seller) this." This, however,
contradicts other passages in the Commentary itself, in which
this form of speech is said to violate this rule when spoken
directly to the seller. Since the Vibhanga includes orders to X
to purchase an item as coming under this rule, it would seem that
only the forms of speech allowed under NP 10 -- "I have need of
such-and-such;" "I want such-and-such" -- would be allowed under
the no-offense clauses here as well.
3) Under the previous rule, the Commentary mentioned that a
bhikkhu engaging in an otherwise allowable trade for profit
incurs a dukkata. Here it says that if a bhikkhu, proposing a
trade by wording it right (//kappiya-vohara//), deceives the
seller as to the value of his goods, he is to be treated under
4) If a bhikkhu goes with his steward to a store and sees that
the steward is getting a bad deal, he may simply tell the
steward, "Don't take it."
5) The Commentary to NP 10 describes how a bhikkhu may make a
purchase when his steward has left funds in safe-keeping on the
bhikkhu's premises but is not around to arrange a trade when,
say, a bowl-seller comes along. The bhikkhu may tell the seller,
"I want this bowl, and there are funds of equal value here, but
there is no steward to make them allowable." If the seller
volunteers to make them allowable, the bhikkhu may show him where
they are but may not tell him how much to take. If the seller
takes too much, the bhikkhu may cancel the sale by saying, "I
don't want your bowl after all."
In general it is not a wise policy to have funds left for
safe-keeping on one's premises -- a Community allowing this exposes
itself to the dangers of robbery and assault -- but the Commentary
here seems less interested in describing ideal behavior than in
simply drawing the line between what is and is not an offense.
Special cases. 1) The Bhikkhunis' Nissaggiya Pacittiya rules 4-10
show that if a lay donor gives money to a store owner to pay for
whatever a bhikkhuni will request from the store, the bhikkhuni may
avail herself of the arrangement. If the donor stipulates that this
arrangement applies only to certain things, or to things worth a
certain amount, she may request only what falls under the
stipulation: This is the point of the rules. In effect, what this
is doing is making the storeowner her steward. Such an arrangement
would thus also seem allowable for bhikkhus, as long as they word
their requests to the store owner properly, as advised under NP 10.
2) As mentioned under NP 18, checks, credit cards, bank drafts,
and traveler's checks do not count as gold or money, but any trade
arranged with them would come under this rule. With checks, the
point where the full offense is committed is when the bhikkhu hands
the check over to the seller -- or tells his steward to hand it over
-- in exchange for goods or services. Simply signing a check does
not come under this rule. Thus a bhikkhu responsible for monastery
building funds of the sort discussed in the Commentary to NP 10 --
where the donor makes the bhikkhu(s) responsible for saying who
money should go to -- may sign checks drawing on the fund without
committing an offense here, unless he hands the check over to the
seller or tells the steward, "Use this to buy X."
Similarly with credit cards: The offense is committed when the
bhikkhu hands the signed credit card receipt -- or has it handed --
to the seller. The receipt is an acknowledgement of goods purchased
or services rendered, which in the context of the card holder's
agreement with the credit card company is his promise to repay the
loan he is making on the company. This promise is what he is
trading with the seller.
Summary: Engaging in trade with anyone except one's
co-religionists is a nissaggiya pacittiya offense.
* * * * * * * *