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The Bodhi tree behind
the Mahabodhi temple
in Bodhgaya






THE GOOD DHARMA



Oldest text of the Small Vehicle Vínaya

The Ovādapātimokkha
   



All parties concerned accept that Sakyamuni Buddha, or Gautama Buddha, formulated a number of rules for his monks, and that a fair number of rules were added over time, either by Buddha himself or by vínaya masters in later ages.
With 'sangha' we mean the fully ordained Buddhist monks and nuns according tot the orthodox rules contained in the above mentioned vínaya and it's condensed set of rules, the pātimokkha or prātimokhsha (in Pali language resp Sanskrit).




The vínaya (emphasis on the first syllable) is the Code of Behaviour for Buddhist monks and nuns. Sakyamuni Buddha's first five, then six disciples didn't need any code of conduct. The first five were ascetics and sons of ascetics who knew 'how the hare runs', come to the correct behaviour of an ascetic. The sixth was a very refined merchant's son.
With the very rapid growth of the Buddhist Sangha, it must have seemed useful to lay down a few rules. Some of the first several thousands of monks had been mendicant-ascetics belonging to a variety of belief systems, some came from high-cast background and were familiar with the vedic and brahmanical rituals, but others had been farmers and merchants with no inside knowledge of any religious system at all.

The first set of rules the Buddha gave his disciples provide a broad outline on how to approach the holy life. This set of rules is called the Ovādapātimokkha in the Pali language. This Ovādapātimokkha is the center of ceremonial attention once a year when monks from the Theravāda-tradition assemble in commemoration of this one particular day when for the first time, spontaneously, without having been summoned, 1250 enlightened disciples assembled around Buddha to hear him give this Ovādapātimokkha. The festivity is called Maha Bucha in Thai, maha pūja in Pali and Sanskrit, that is, the great festival of offering.

After the monks had left for their respective region of practising, teaching and preaching, from time to time word arrived that this or that monk had done this or that, or said this or that, and people asked whether this was in accordance with Buddha's dispensation or not. As a result, as occasion arose, a rather elaborate set of rules was laid down. These rules are of no consequence to Buddhist lay followers; you don't wear robes, therefore you don't need to worry about wearing them in the proper way; you don't spend the night together with your brethren in one monastery, therefore you don't need to worry about that as well; you don't go on almsround, therefore you don't need to worry about walking and receiving the food in the proper way, etc.
But the Ovādapātimokkha could be taken at heart by both laity and monks and nuns. That is why the text is given below. It's a translation that the Thai Sangha published in the year 1969.




Passages explaining the Ovādapātimokkha


These three verses, the Pātimokkha for Exhortation, were indeed spoken by the Lord, the One who Knows, the One who Sees, the Arahant, the Perfect Buddha:


"The practise most excellent is patient enduring,
'Nibbāna most excellent' proclaimed by the Buddhas,
But he is not forthgone who hurteth another
And neither a samana (mendicant monk) harrying others.

Every evil never doing
And in skillfulness increasing
And one's heart well-purifying:
This is the Buddha's Sāsana.

Not insulting, neither harming,
In Pātimokkha well-restrained,
Knowing moderation in one's food,
Far away one's sleeping-sitting place,
And striving in the heart sublime:
This is the Buddhas' Sāsana.

In various ways indeed has moral conduct been rightly expounded, collectedness been rightly expounded, wisdom been rightly expounded by the Lord, the One who Knows, the One who Sees, the Arahant, the perfect Buddha.

And how has moral conduct been rightly expounded by the Lord? The lower course of moral conduct has been rightly expounded by the Lord. Further, the higher course of moral conduct has been rightly expounded by the Lord.

And how has the lower course of moral conduct been rightly expounded by the Lord? Here, a noble hearkener is restrained from destroying living creatures; is restrained from taking what is not given; is restrained from wrong conduct in sexual relations; is restrained from false speech; is restrained from distilled and fermented intoxicants which are the occasion for carelessness. Thus it is that the lower course of moral conduct has been rightly expounded by the Lord.

And how has collectedness been rightly expounded by the Lord? The lower course of collectedness (samādhi) has been rightly expounded by the Lord. Further, the higher course of collectedness has been rightly expounded by the Lord.

And how has the lower course of collectedness been rightly expounded by the Lord? Here, a noble hearkener having made relinquishment his object gains collectedness, gains one-pointedness of mind. Thus it is that the lower course of collectedness has been rightly expounded by the Lord.

And how has the higher course of collectedness been rightly expounded by the Lord? Here, a bhikkhu (monk) aloof from sense-desires, aloof from unskillful thoughts, attains and abides in he first concentration having application (vitakka) and sustenation (vicāra)(of mind), and being born of solitude (viveka), joy (pīti) and happiness (sukkha). By the quietening of application and sustenation (of mind), the heart serene within and concentrated upon one point, without application and sustenation of mind, born of collectedness, joy and happiness, he attains and abides in the second concentration. By dispassion towards joy he dwells with equanimity, mindful, clearly comprehending and with the body experiences that happiness of which the ariyas say: 'One with equanimity and mindfulness dwells happily,' and he attains and abides in the third concentration. By giving up happiness, by giving up dukkha (stress), by the disappearance of former joys and anguish, he attains and abides in the fourth concentration, with neither dukkha nor happiness, completely pure, with equanimity and mindfulness. Thus it is that the higher course of collectedness has been rightly expounded by the Lord.

And how has wisdom been rightly expounded by the Lord? The lower course of wisdom has been rightly expounded by the Lord. Further, the higher course of wisdom has been rightly expounded by the Lord.

And how has the higher course of wisdom been rightly expounded by the Lord? Here, a bhikkhu understands according to reality, thus: 'This is dukkha'; he understands according to reality, thus: 'This is the cause for the arising of dukkha'; he understands according to reality, thus: 'This is the cessation of dukkha'; he understands according to reality, thus: 'This is the practice-path leading to the cessation of dukkha'. Thus it is that the higher course of wisdom has been rightly expounded by the Lord.

When moral conduct is thoroughly developed, collectedness is of great fruit, of great advantage; when collectedness is thoroughly developed, wisdom is of great fruit, of great advantage; when wisdom is thoroughly developed, the heart is freed completely from the pollutions (āsava), which are in brief: the pollution for sensuality, the pollution for existence, the pollution of unknowing.

This was said by the Lord at the time of the Parinibbāna, this was his last utterance: "Listen well, O bhikkhus, I exhort you: Subject to decay are (bodily and mental) activities. With heedfulness strive on!" And this was said by the Lord: "O bhikkhus, just as whatsoever jungle creatures there be, the feet of those species are contained by the elephant's foot, the elephant's foot is said to be the greatest of them all because of its extensiveness; even so, O bhikkhus, whatsoever skillful dhammas (teachings) there be, all those spring from the root of heedfulness (appamadā), unite in heedfulness, heedfulness is said to be the greatest of them all."

Therefore, we should train ourselves thus: We shall have keen attention in undertaking the training in supreme moral conduct, the training in supreme collectedness, the training in supreme wisdom. With heedfulness we shall strive! Thus indeed we should train ourselves.


Concluded are the passages explaining the Ovādapātimokkha.







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