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The Vinaya Piṭaka is a Buddhist scripture, one of the three parts that make up the Tripitaka. Its primary subject matter is the monastic rules for monks and nuns. The name Vinaya Piṭaka (vinayapiṭaka) is the same in Pāli, Sanskrit and other dialects used by early Buddhists in India, and means basket of discipline.


Surviving versions

Six versions survive complete, of which three are still in use.

  • The Pali version of the Theravada, included in the Pali Canon, translated by I. B. Horner as The Book of the Discipline, 1938-66, 6 volumes, Pali Text Society, Bristol
    • Suttavibhanga (-vibhaṅga): commentary on the Patimokkha, with much of its text embedded
      • Mahavibhanga (mahā-) dealing with monks
      • Bhikkhunivibhanga (bhikkhunī-) dealing with nuns
    • Khandhaka: 22 chapters on various topics
    • Parivara: analyses the rules from various points of view
  • 'Dul-ba, Tibetan translation of the Mulasarvastivada version; this is the version used in the Tibetan tradition
    • Vinayavastu: 16 skandhakas (khandhakas) and the start of the 17th
    • Pratimokshasutra of monks
    • Vinayavibhanga of monks
    • Pratimokshasutra of nuns
    • Vinayavibhanga of nuns
    • Vinayakshudrakavastu: rest of the 17th skandhaka and others
    • Vinayottaragrantha: appendices, including Upaliparipriccha, which corresponds to a chapter of the Parivara
  • Ssŭ-fen lü 四分律 (Taisho catalogue number 1428), Chinese translation of the Dharmaguptaka version; this is the version used in the Chinese tradition and its derivatives in Korea, Vietnam and the Ritsu school in Japan (most Buddhist clergy in Japan do not follow the Vinaya, but rather follow the Mahayana [Bodhisattva] Precepts, a result of the successful Tendai school campaign).
    • Bhikshuvibhanga dealing with monks
    • Bhikshunivibhanga dealing with nuns; translated by Ann Heirman as Rules for Nuns According to the Dharmaguptakavinaya, Part II, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 2002
    • Skandhaka
    • Samyuktavarga
    • Vinayaikottara, corresponding to a chapter of the Parivara
  • Shih-sung lü (T1435), translation of Sarvastivada version
    • Bhikshuvibhanga
    • Skandhaka
    • Bhikshunivibhanga
    • Ekottaradharma, similar to Vinayaikottara
    • Upaliparipriccha
    • Ubhayatovinaya
    • Samyukta
    • Parajikadharma
    • Sanghavasesha
    • Kusaladhyaya
  • Wu-fen lü (T1421), translation of Mahisasaka version
    • Bhikshuvibhanga
    • Bhikshunivibhanga
    • Skandhaka
  • Mo-ho-seng-ch'i lü 摩訶僧祇律 (T1425), translation of Mahasanghika version (the nuns' rules have been translated by the late Professor Hirakawa as Monastic Discipline for the Buddhist Nuns, Patna, 1982)
    • Bhikshuvibhanga
    • Bhikshunivibhanga
    • Skandhaka

In addition, portions of various versions survive in various languages.


Each school traditionally claimed that its own version was compiled at the First Council shortly after the Buddha's death, and recited by Upali, with little later addition. As the versions are different, scholars do not take this literally. However, as the different versions are fairly similar, most scholars consider most of the Vinaya to be fairly early, that is, dating from before the separation of schools.[1] However, Dr Gregory Schopen, Professor of Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Buddhist Studies in the University of Texas at Austin, argues against this assumption on various grounds.[2] He suggests that similarities may be due to later standardization. He also points out that many inscriptions from early times on show that monks owned property, contrary to the Vinaya. He argues that there is no evidence that this represents a decline from an early period of observance, and suggests that the Vinaya may be an attempt by a self-appointed elite to impose their standards on everyone else.


The Pali version of the Patimokkha, the code of conduct that applies to Buddhist monastics, contains 227 major rules for bhikkhus and 311 major rules for bhikkhunis. The Vibhanga section(s) of Vinaya Pitaka constitute(s) a commentary on these rules, giving detailed explanations of them along with the origin stories for each rule. The Khandhaka/Skandhaka sections give numerous supplementary rules grouped by subject, again with origin stories. The Buddha called his teaching the "Dhamma-Vinaya", emphasizing both the philosophical teachings of Buddhism as well as the training in virtue that embodies that philosophy.

In the collected Chinese editions of the Scriptures the Vinaya pitaka has a broader sense, including all four Chinese vinayas listed above, parts of others, non-canonical vinaya literature, lay vinaya and bodhisattva vinaya.

Place in the tradition

According to the scriptures, in the first years of the Buddha's teaching the sangha lived together in harmony with no vinaya, as there was no need, because all of the Buddha's early disciples were highly realized if not fully enlightened. As the sangha expanded situations arose which the Buddha and the lay community felt were inappropriate for samanas. According to tradition, the first rule to be established was the prohibition against sexual acts. The origin story tells of an earnest monk whose family was distraught that there was no male heir and so persuaded the monk to impregnate his wife. According to tradition, all three, the monk, his wife and son who both later ordained, eventually became fully enlightened arahants.

The vinaya is very important to Buddhists -

"Whatever Dhamma and Vinaya I have pointed out and formulated for you, that will be your Teacher when I am gone." (Mahaaparinibbaana Sutta, [D.16]).

See also


  1. ^ New Penguin Handbook of Living Religions, page 380
  2. ^ Bones, Stones, and Buddhist Monks, University of Hawai'i Press, Honolulu, 1997

External links



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