The Buddhist Canon is called the Tipitaka (literally ‘3 baskets’) and consists of three distinct collections of the teachings of the Buddha designated, respectively, Sutta Pitaka (SP), Vinaya Pitaka (VP) and the Abhidhamma Pitaka (ABP). The SP contains the discourses of the Buddha while ABP deals with the metaphysical aspects of Buddha’s teaching. VP embodies a comprehensive account of the rules of monastic discipline framed for the conduct and guidance of Bhikkus and Bhikkunis.
Buddha personally supervised the Bhikkus and Bhikkunis for 20 years without any specific rules and framed rules only when the numbers increased and rules became necessary. Buddha at Parinibbana nominated no successor and directed that whatever Dhamma and Vinaya was preached by Him, that will be the Teacher. All the rules were recited with reference to their subject, background and application and codified as the Vinaya Pitaka at the 1st council. The VP is divided and sub-divided in the following manner:
- Sutta Vibhanga a)Maha Vibhanga (Bhikku Vibhanga) b)Bhikkuni Vibhanga
- Kandhaka a)Mahavagga b)Cullavagga
- Parivara Sutta Vibhanga contains the Pratimoksha Sutta (Principal rules of Discipline) which is the nucleus of the Vinaya.
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Rules are framed in the form of offences and failures to observe norms of conduct. Sikkhapada rules (220 for Bhikkus & 304 for Bhikkunis) are classified according to their seriousness under different categories in the following manner: CategoryNo. for BhikkusNo. for Bhikkunis Parajika48 Sanghadisesa1317 Nissagiya pacittiya3030 Aniyata20 Pacittiya92166 Patidesaniya48 Sekhiya7575 220304 Adhikarana samatha77 (Disciplinary action procedures) •Parajika are the most grave offences and are inexcusable.
The offending monk is expelled from the sasana. Sanghadisesa offender can be restored after he has undergone certain penalties and maintained good behaviour. Other offences can be excused after making a confession. Sekhiya rules are norms of conduct for a descent life and are not treated as offences. Mahavagga opens with a historical account of the development of the Buddha sasana from Buddha’s enlightenment up to the conversion of Kolita and Upatissa (chief disciples) and deals with the following subjects in the other chapters.
- Procedures for the fortnight assembly (uposatha kamma)
- Residence during the rainy season (vassana and pavarana)
- Rules for ecclesiastical acts (vinaya kamma) and for personal hygiene.
Cullavagga is a continuation of the Mahavagga and deals with the following subjects :
- Punishment for violation of rules
- Hospitality towards visiting monks from other monasteries
- The dissention caused by Devadatta
- Establishment of the Bhikkuni order
- 1st and 2nd Buddhist councils.
Parivara is the 5th volume of the VP and is of secondary importance. This text is believed to be a compilation made in Sri Lanka after the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka.
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