The Vinaya (a word in
Pālias well as in Sanskrit, with literal meaning 'leading out', 'education', 'discipline') is the regulatory framework for the Buddhistmonastic community, or sangha, based in the canonical texts called Vinaya Pitaka. The teachings of the Buddha, or Buddhadharmacan be divided into two broad categories: ' Dharma' or doctrine, and 'Vinaya', or discipline. Another term for Buddhism is "dharmavinaya".
At the heart of the Vinaya is a set of rules known as
Patimokkha(Pāli), or Pratimoksha(Sanskrit). The Vinaya was orally passed down from the Buddha to his disciples. Eventually, numerous different Vinayas arose in Buddhism, based upon geographical or cultural differences and the different Buddhist schoolsthat developed. Three of these are still in use. The Vinayas are the same in substance and have only minor differences. Buddhists in Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, and Thailandfollow the TheravadinVinaya, which has 227 rules for the bhikkhus (male monastics) and 311 for the bhikkhunis (female monastics, though the female order died out centuries ago and recent attempts to restore it from the Chinese tradition are controversial). Buddhists in China, and in Japan, and those in Koreaand Vietnamfollow the DharmaguptakaVinaya, which has 250 rules for the bhikkhus and 348 rules for the bhikkhunis. Buddhists in Tibetand Mongoliafollow the MūlasarvāstivādaVinaya, which has 253 rules for the bhikshus and 364 rules for bhikshunis (in theory, though the female order was never introduced in Tibet; it has recently been authorized by the Dalai Lama). In addition to these patimokkha rules there are many supplementary rules.
Surrounding the rules is a range of texts. Some of these explain the origins of the rules - it is possible to trace the development of the rules from responses to specific situations or actions to a general codification. There are also a number of
sutta-like texts which are more general statements about Buddhist doctrine, or which give biographical details of some of the great disciples and their enlightenment. Other sections detail how the rules are to be applied, how breaches are to be dealt with, and how disputes amongst the monks are handled.
It is thought that originally there were no rules and the Buddha and his disciples just lived in harmony when they were together. Most of the time they would have been wandering alone, but every year, during the monsoon season when travelling became impossible, the bhikkhus would come together for a few months. As the sangha became bigger and started accepting people of lesser ability who remained unenlightened, it became necessary to begin having rules.
It seems that initially these were quite flexible and were adapted to the situation. By the time of the Buddha's death there would have been a body of rules which bhikkhus were expected to follow. In the
Mahaparinibbana Suttathe Buddha, as part of his last teaching, tells the bhikkhus that they can abandon some minor rules, but that they should stick to the major ones, but there appears to have been some confusion over which was which. It was therefore decided that they would keep all of the rules. Immediately after the Buddha's death there was a council at which all of the teachings were recited, collected and sorted. Legend has it that the huge volume of teachings was recited from memory, with Anandareciting the dhamma and Upalireciting the Vinaya.
Early Buddhist Schools
Schools of Buddhism
* [http://sectsandsectarianism.googlepages.com/home Sects & Sectarianism - The origins of Buddhist Schools]
* [http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/vin/index.html Translations and extensive commentary on Theravada Vinaya] (Vinaya section on www.accesstoinsight.com)
* [http://editthis.info/wikivinaya WikiVinaya Project]
* [http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/sbe13/index.htm "Vinaya Texts (Part 1),"] by T.W. Rhys Davids & Hermann Oldenberg (trans.) (  ), originally published by Clarendon Press (Oxford).
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