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Lời tâm sự riêng: Nghĩ rằng tài liệu này chỉ có lợi ích cho một số ít người, hơn nữa thời gian không cho phép, vì thế tôi không có ý định ghi lại bằng tiếng Việt. Mục đích của bài này nhằm nhắc nhở quý độc giả cần phải chú ý những hạt cát lẫn lộn vào trong chén cơm tinh thần của quý vị - Tk. Indacanda.




While working on this dissertation, I have read and summarized varieties of books on the Vinaya literature that are available to me in Sri Lanka. I have also written down some notes for each point I did not agree with the authors for later reference. In order to prove the raised point about “problems in translation and interpretation related to the Vinayapiṭakapāḷi,” I selected some books that meet the criteria and present them here. For the ones presented here I have no means that these books are not worth reading or others not shown are perfectly safe from the inaccuracy of the information conveyed. My thinking is that critical reading is a required skill for every reader living in the age of “information explosion.”  



Dutt, Sukumar. Early Buddhist Monachism. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 1996.

Sukumar Dutt states in the preface of the book that he tries to outline the activities of an individual monk (bhikkhu) and those of the monk community (saṅgha) at the earliest period of Buddhism. In the first chapter, he argues that historical information found in the Pāli texts should be evaluated critically due to the reasons that it may not reflex the background of the Buddha’s time and that rules and regulations “were adopted by his monk-followers from time to time under the aegis of the Founder’s name,” and he then proposes four guidelines that need to be followed while interpreting Vinaya rules (29). Sukumar Dutt examined various Sanskrit sources in order to come up with a theory of the origin of the primitive parivrājaka, a religious tradition that has conclusive effects in shaping the life and activities of Buddhist monks (chapter II). In chapter III, he discusses the meaning of the two terms saṅgha and pātimokkha based on literary evidences found in the ancient scriptures, Pāli and Sanskrit texts. He also makes a further research looking for the true number and content of the Pātimokkha in Tibetan and Chinese sources. In chapter IV, he looks at the application of the monastic codes Pātimokkha in rituals such as Uposatha or Pavāraṇā. Here we can observe his wrong understanding of such religious performances. For example, we can observe that in his wrong perception about the confession of a bhikkhu: He sees it as a form of redemption when he gives translation of one crucial part in the Nidāna of the Pātimokkha, i.e. “āpatti āvikātabbā āvikatā hi’ssa phāsu hoti” as “unconfessed offences are cleared up on confession” (85). In fact, there is nothing “to be cleared up” but something to be acquired, which is phāsu, an easeful psychological state, appearing to the guilty bhikkhu (assa) when he confesses his bad deeds. His statement about the Uposatha ritual “[f]rom being an instrument of monastic discipline it came to be nothing more than the organized expression of the communal and corporate life of the Sangha” does not express successfully the essence of the ceremony (87). Then in chapter V, he presents a thorough explanation of terms such as ārāma, vihāra, sīmā, āvāsa but unfortunately comes up with the wrong conclusion about “the gradual transition from the eremitical to the cenobitical life among the early Buddhists in India” (112). This is already being disputed by other scholars such as Professor J. Dhirasekara and Dr. Wijayaratna. Finally, in the last two chapters, Sukumar Dutt tries to outline the activities of the monk community through legal acts (saṅghakamma), either disciplinary ones to guilty bhikkhu or non-disciplinary ones to other matters. He also gives the list of constructions of a monastery as described in the ancient Buddhist texts and the appointment of monks to some special tasks in order to maintain the communal life in a monastery. He gives the right function of kappiyakāraka but confuses that such appointed person is a saṅgha officer, in other word a bhikkhu (154). In fact kappiyakāraka should be a layperson, or maybe a novice (sāmanera) assigned to some simple tasks.




Holt, John Clifford. Discipline: The Canonical Buddhism of the VINAYAPITAKA. Delhi: Motilal Banarasidass, 1995.

First of all, I am going to give the citation from the foreword written by Professor Reynolds of the University of Chicago stating that John C. Holt’s dissertation is a “careful and comprehensive analysis of the Vinaya, to refine and enrich the religio-historical category of discipline. As a result of Holt’s work, historians of religions will now be able to recognize discipline as an interpretative category having equal status with other primary categories such as “devotion,” “meditation,” and the like” (viii). Indeed, John C. Holt did make a lot of effort to study the Vinaya not only from the work of Miss I. B. Horner, which is the English translation of the Vinayapiṭaka, but also some other books that relate to the topic. His reasoning is straightforward with reminders of what he said previously or introductions for the turning point that will be coming up. His interpretation of some chapters of the Vinayapiṭaka may help the readers grasp the concept faster instead of spending time reading through original texts or translations that are heavy with many passages repeated and verbose.

However, some unavoidable weaknesses are present in his work: For instance, he mentions the terms thūpa and cetiya in Pāli, dāgaba (Sinhalese) (141), and stūpa (Sanskrit) (142) but I am not sure whether he sees the equivalence among them or not. Another matter is that he often uses Sanskrit vocabulary in his discussion but quotes from Pāli sources such as the case of Tri-ratna (Triple Gem) (143) in stead of Ti-ratana; at least he should clear out the point in footnotes. But the most important thing is that he left many wrong interpretations in his work, perhaps through misunderstanding of others’ translation or unluckily citing faulty translations. Let us take a look at some passages quoted from his book:

1/- “If a bhikkhu had left the Saṅgha to join another śramaṇa group and returned desiring to be re-admitted, he was usually required to spend four months of probation. However, if the bhikkhu had defected to the Jainas or Jaṭilas, the four months of probation was waved” (25); the truth is that this rule is applied to a new converter to Buddhism, not a bhikkhu.

2/- “Each rule, therefore, represents a device invented by the Buddha or the Saṅgha to prevent the expression of such a motive. When the rule is observed or when one is mindful of the reason for the rule, the bhikkhu ideally acts in the absence of these motives. Or better, the bhikkhu acts “purely.” That is, he will act in a manner detached or apart from wrongful intent” (88). I really do not understand how he can reach such conclusion.

3/-“... the matter is reported to the Buddha who then admonishes Sudinna and expells him from the order” (89); he gives us a reference from the translation of I. B. Horner (B. D. 1: 21-38) and concludes that “Sudinna is therefore expelled from the community because of his incapacity to control rāga (90). I am sure that he does not catch the point that the Pātimokkha rules do not apply to the first-wrong doers (ādikammika) and let Miss Horner take the burden.

4/- “They concluded that the bhikkhu of the vihāra had engaged in sexual intercourse with the monkey and asked the bhikkhu about the matter when he returned. He admitted to the accusation but defended himself by saying ...” (90). It would have been better to state exactly that other bhikkhus had waited for his return and had witnessed his engaging in sexual intercourse with the monkey.

5/- In the footnote on page 118, he comments about the expulsion of novices committing sexual intercourse with a bhikkhunī that “this last rule being redundant since sexual intercourse is prohibited in the pañcaśīla;” indeed, he confuses the sexual intercourse in the five precepts and ten precepts, the former case is adultery whereas the latter has a broader meaning.

6/- Holt is not familiar with the monastic tradition by saying that on a Uposatha day the code is recited by all of the participants, but in reality only one “learned and competent” monk recites the Pātimokkha code and “asks all members present if they are pure with regard to the rules just cited” (130). He also says that “[i]f an offence is concealed and later becomes known, severe penalties are enforced i.e., Pārājika 4;” but in reality that monk committed an additional pācittiya offence due to his lying status” (130). 



Kabilsingh, Chatsumarn. The Bhikkhunī Pātimokkha of the Six Schools. Bangkok: Thammasat Universit Press, 1991.

Kabilsingh’s book presents the discipline of nuns (Bhikkhunī Pātimokkha) of the six schools preserved in Chinese Tripiṭaka. The six schools named in her books are: Theravāda, Mahāsaṅghika, Mahiśāsaka, Sarvāstivāda, Dharmagupta, Mūla-Sarvāstivāda. The focus in this summary is only on the bhikkhunī pātimokkha of Theravāda. As said in her introduction, she follows the English translation of I. B. Horner and makes a comparison with the Thai Tripiṭaka version, (which is not included sādhāraṇapaññatti, i.e. the monastic codes shared between the two Orders; those can be found in the texts used for monks, Bhikkhupātimokkha). For the whole list of rules for nuns, she relies on the text Ubhatopātimokkha, which is the monastic codes for both Orders monks and nuns, translated into Thai language by Mr. Sqr. Pornpote Kabilsingh. In order to present her work to English readers, she made a lot of efforts to overcome the two language barriers, Chinese and Pāli as she reveals that her Chinese is only fundamental and she left many Pāli words incorrectly spelled in her introduction and footnotes. My interest in her work is that it provides my research with the list of the nuns’ monastic codes and shows me in footnotes some discrepancies between the Thai and English versions. In the process of translation through another medium, which is the Thai language, some parts of her English translation become obscure and inappropriate.  



Misra, G. S. P. The Age of Vinaya: A Historical and Cultural Study. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1972.

As the book title suggests and as he states that “As a whole the Pāli Vinaya proves to be a reliable and important source in the formation of the history of the Buddhist Saṅgha,” Misra presents a comprehensive research giving us the background of the ancient past in India related to many aspects such as religious practices and belief, education, politics, also art and architecture. In fact, he does not only represent the environment of the Buddhist monks in the ancient past but also uses the information from the Tipiṭaka, Sanskrit texts, and the works of others such as T. W. Rhys Davids, Oldenberg, Frauwallner, G. C. Pande, N. Dutt, etc., to illustrate the Indian society of the time of the Buddha and later. In addition, he goes further with theoretical explanations related to the Vinaya practice with small headings such as The Human Action and Moral standard, Detached Action, Keeping Away form Sense-Objects, Control and Mastery over Mind, Constant Vigilance, etc.

From his nine-chapter book, I have read so far three chapters, which I think necessary to my studies about Vinaya; they are chapter I: Vinaya and its Development, chapter III: Doctrinal and Moral Basis of Buddhist Discipline, and chapter IV: Buddhist Monasticism. I am impressed by the labor put in this book and vast knowledge about the topic, as well as the clear helpful references for students and researchers. However, my attention was drawn to some unexpected mistakes in his work: When he discusses the two terms Dhamma and Vinaya that relates to the First Council, I do not know whether he mistakenly or deliberately leaves out the term Vinaya out of the Buddha’s instruction before leaving the world. He gives a citation from Mahāparinibbānasutta like this: “dhammo vo, bhikkhave, mamaccayena satthā,” whereas the Buddha’s words towards Venerable Ānanda is more comprehensive: “Yo vo Ānanda mayā Dhammo ca Vinayo ca desito paññatto, so vo mam’ accayena Satthā” (11). In fact, he did not double-check this and did not give the page number for reference.

Moreover, when he mentions about the ten point controversy raised by the Vajjian monks, which was the reason for the second Council convened, his judgment about the president of the Council, Sabbakāmī, seems to be arbitrary and improper:

It is surprising to note that a learned monk like Sabbakāmī did not know the true signification of most of the points concerned and excepting the last two viz., ‘adasakanisīdana’ and ‘jātarūparajāta’ the other eight points were asked for explanation. (16)


He may mislead the readers by his words instead of presenting the fact alone and leaving deduction to readers. Oppose to his statement, I allege that the purpose of Venerable Sabbakāmī is not to educate himself but to inform the issues to the rest of the monks in the Council.

In the footnote 51, when he says that Mahākassapa who convened the First Council was a Jaṭila,[1] he was perhaps thinking of Uruvelakassapa, Nadīkassapa, and Gayākassapa.[2] But according to Apadānapāḷi and Theragāthā-Aṭṭhakathā,[3] Mahākassapa was a Brahmin named Pippalimāṇava who married Bhaddā Kāpilānī and later both renounced the world and became famous monk and nun of the Buddha.

Another item is his explanation about the Kaṭhina ceremony performed after the rain retreat. He writes: “According to formal rule, if a monk was selected for the making of the robes, as a compensation of the trouble involved in it he was granted five privileges concerning his food, dress and daily life” (124). But the truth is that the five privileges were not granted to him alone but also to other monks who completed the rain retreat at the same place with him and revealed their rejoicing with his accomplishment in making the robe and other rituals of the Kaṭhina ceremony.

One more thing needs to be mentioned is that he prefers using Sanskrit terms but gives the Pāli sources. For example, he discusses about the role of upādhyāya and ācārya refering to the text Cullavaggapāli; to me it seems odd.

Overall, despite of some unsatisfactory factors, his book gave me not only an overview of the Vinayapiṭaka but also the necessary knowledge about the Indian society in the past; moreover some vocabulary from chapter IX: Economic Conditions and Material Culture that is not available in dictionaries. 



Olivelle, Patrick. The Origin and The Early Development of Buddhist Monachism. Colombo: M. D. Gunasena & Co. Ltd., 1974.

In part two of this work named The Growths of Buddhist Coenobitical Life, there are four chapters making up one-third of the book, in which Olivelle proves his points mainly with reference to the Vinayapiṭaka. His assumptions are attested by the titles given to each of the four chapters. They are The Vassa and the Āvāsa saying about the raining season and the settling of Buddhist monks, The Uposatha and the Pāṭimokkha about the ceremony performed twice a month on the eve of the full moon and the new moon days and the recitation of the monastic codes, The Growth of Monastic Life and the Development of Vinaya Rules dealing with materials related to each individual or community in monastic life, and The Entry into the Bhikkhu-Saṅgha mentioning the requirements and procedure of becoming sāmaṇera (novice) and bhikkhu (monk) involving two Pāli terms pabbajjā and upasampadā. Even though Olivelle performs a good task in summarizing many parts of the Vinayapiṭaka, some of his interpretations about Vinaya concepts conflict with mine. A few examples are: the distance that “a man of average height could throw water all around” for a boundary in water (37), the meaning of nānāvāsaka and samānavāsaka (38-39), the way of dealing with materials in the Kaṭhina ceremony after raining seasons (40-41), the significance of ritual confession in a Uposatha day, his prejudice in calling Venerable Purāṇa (āyasmā Purāṇa) who is the leader of five hundred monks as “th[e] aged bhikkhu [who] refused to submit to what had been agreed upon at the First Council at Rājagrha” (55), or his wrong statement of the pācittiya offence 35th instead of 39th while relating to the prohibition of fish and meat (59).




Ratnapala, Nandasena. Crime and Punishment in the Buddhist Tradition. New Delhi: Mittal Publications, 1993.

As revealed by the title, the content of this book hangs upon the rules applied to the followers of Buddhism, especially to the clerical members, i.e. bhikkhu(s) and bhikkhunī(s). As an expert in the field of criminology, the author makes an attempt to approach the field of Vinaya studies and tries to gain knowledge from Buddhist tradition in order to suggest supplements to the contemporary law. Furthermore, he also tries to see the philosophy of Buddhist Law under the view of the present judicial system. First of all, the author presents the background of Buddhist Law, in other words the condition and situation that led to the Pātimokkha rules (chapter I). Then he continues with chapter II The Nature and Type of Buddhist Law, which is a general view about offences in the Pātimokkha rules under four current modern trends: crimes against property, crimes against persons, crimes against public safety and morals, and crimes against the social order. He also presents the origin and causes of such offences under the evolutionary, political and economic, socio-psychological, and karmic points of views (chapter IV). In the next five chapters (V to IX), he summarizes the content of Suttavibhaṅga containing the rules for monks and nuns. Finally, in the rest of his book, chapters X to XV, he mainly uses materials in the first four chapters of Cullavagga dealing with legal disputes (adhikaraṇa), settlement (adhikaraṇasamatha), and acts of punishment such as act of censure (tajjanīyakamma). He also picks out some information from Mahāvagga that have relation with his thesis and analyzes them under the view of the modern jurisprudence. Despite the introduction in the cover of his book that he has deep knowledge and capability for this topic including his skill in ancient languages, some unavoidable weaknesses have come up: For example, his discussion is mainly based on the Vinayapiṭaka translation of I. B. Horner, but sometimes he quotes Sukumar Dutt without questioning how and where Sukumar Dutt had reached such conclusion (64, 186). For some unknown reasons, in a few places he gives references to the Pāli scriptures instead of translation of other translators. Another important issue is that while doing research based on translations of others, he gives wrong interpretation for the passages quoted (93, 95, 98, 185, 198). 



Thanissaro, Ven. Phra Jeffrey. The Buddhist Monastic Code: The Pāṭimokkha Training Rules Translated and Explained. California: Metta Forest Monastery, 1993.

This book is an attempt of the author to present an organized and detailed account of the monastic codes Pātimokkha, which are the training rules for monks in Theravāda tradition, with information drawn from the Vinayapiṭaka. Each rule is analyzed into its component factors: intention, perception, object, effort, and result in order to help Vinaya learners grasp a strong knowledge for each rule. The author not only puts in his book as much information from the ancient scriptures as possible but also tries to apply the rules in the environment of the modern time by giving vivid examples created by his own imagination. Such examples are helpful; however some of them have wrongly suggestive sense or go too far beyond the reality. That may cause unpleasant feelings to the readers, whether they are religious or lay people. For instance, giving examples for the second rule of saṅghādisesa, he says “a bhikkhu who fondles the breasts or buttocks of a fully-clothed woman would incur only a thullaccaya since the contact was indirect” (106), or “if he lustfully rubs up two women in a bus, his incurs two saṅghādisesas” (109). Or in the second rule of pācittiya, he translates “You camel! You goat! You ass! You penis! You vaginal” and emphasizes in parentheses that “[a]ll five of these come from the Vibhaṅga” (263). The Pāli passage in the Vinayapiṭaka for his translation could only be: “oṭṭhosi meṇḍosi goṇosi gadrabhosi tiracchānagatosi nerayikosi” (Vin. IV, 7), but its meaning is slightly different: “You are a camel, you are a ram, you are an ox, you are an ass, you are an animal, you are (destined) for a state of woe” (BD. II, 178); so where did the venerable author get the last two items, penis and vaginal, for his translation?

As said in his introduction, besides the Vinayapiṭaka, the author has consulted five primary works, which are Samantapāsādikā, Kaṅkhavitāranī, Sāratthadīpanī, Vimativinodanī, Atthayojanā, including the English translation of I. B. Horner and many other books as well. Leaving out some weaknesses mentioned above, this book is recommended to read in order to understand more about the Vinayapiṭaka



Wijayaratna, Mohan. Buddhist monastic life: according to the texts of the Theravāda tradition. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Although being undergone the process of translation from French into English language, Wijayaratna’s book still preserves its lucid and easy to understand writing style. For the content of the book, as the title suggested, readers can find information relating to the life of religious members of the Buddhist community beginning with the introduction about the term saṅgha, which “refer[s] specifically to the Community of monks and nuns in the terminology of Theravāda monasticism” with historical facts about its formation and the stories of some remarkable disciples of the Buddha (1). Wijayaratna arranges his book into general headings: Dwelling Places, Clothing, Food, Money, Chastity, Solitude, The Rules of the Community, so that readers can easily find information that interests them or fulfills their need. In order to perform such task, Wijayaratna must have strong knowledge about Buddhism. I think that he was not only spending a lot of times reading the vast materials about Buddhism but also exerted a lot of labors generalizing and categorizing the knowledge acquired before composing this book, and that he has also achieved a high level in the Pāli language.

Unfortunately, he still made some misinterpretations about Vinaya concepts. For examples, he translate a long passage from the Vinayapiṭaka but drops important information at the last sentence “I allow you, monks, three robes: saṅghāti, uttarāsaṅga, and antarāvāsaka.[4] He had better translate precisely as two-layer saṅghāti, one-layer uttarāsaṅga, and one-layer antarāvāsaka (41). It seems to me that he confuses the concept of sharing ownership (vikappeti) of an extra robe with another monastic member while interpreting an excerpt from Vin. IV, 121 (48). He also gives wrong interpretation of the pācittiya rule 31, which states that a monk if not sick should receive food at a charity center only one day (71), also of the pāṭidesanīya rule 4 about receiving food that is not informed in advanced (appaṭisamviditaṃ) while living in dangerous forests; the concept about the food from a stranger may mislead readers that the rule is supposed to protect the monks from poisoned but in fact to keep the donors from the danger of being attacked by robbers (72, 142). The juice extracted from sugar cane is acceptable drinking in inappropriate time (vikāla)[5] but he means in the contrary (74). And the pācittiya rule 70, the advice to a novice who upheld false opinion is given once not three successive occasions as that of Wijayaratna’s interpretation (151). Wijayaratna quotes the invitation, “Etha bhikkhavo. Svākkhāto dhammo, caratha brahmacariyaṃ sammā dukkhassa antakiriyāya” at Vin. I, 23 and translates as “Come, monks practice the life of purity to bring a complete end to suffering,” (117) he missed an important part, i.e. svākkhāto dhammo. He also states that such quote was the original formula used by the Master in the first days of the Community to bestow the Ordination on monks and nuns;” in fact it was applied to monks, not to nuns.

Despite such unavoidable mistakes, his book offers a good general knowledge about Buddhism for the readers who have the curiosity of how the life and activities in a Buddhist monastery looks like. This book is recommended to the readers of all levels due to its appeal in transparent writing style and its richness of Buddhist monastic information. 




[1] Footnote 51, p. 115.

[2] Vin. I, 24.

[3] Ap. II, 583, verse 56 ff.; TheA. III, 121 ff.

[4] anujānāmi bhikkhave ticīvaraṃ diguṇaṃ saṃghāiṃ ekacciyaṃ uttarāsaṅgaṃ ekacciyaṃ antaravāsakan ti (Vin I, 289).

[5] anujānāmi bhikkhave ucchurasan ti (Vin. I, 246).



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