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The Vinaya Pitaka

The Vinaya Pitaka, the first division of the Tipitaka, is the textual framework upon which the monastic community (Sangha) is built. The Vinaya contains the code of rules by which monks and nuns are to conduct themselves individually (the Patimokkha), as well as the rules and procedures that support the harmonious functioning of the community as a whole.

Altogether, there are 227 Patimokkha rules for the bhikkhus (monks) and 311 for the bhikkhunis (nuns). As the rules were established one by one, on a case-by-case basis, the punishments naturally range widely in severity, from simple confession (e.g., if a monk behaves disrespectfully) to permanent expulsion from the Sangha (e.g., if a monk commits homicide).


The four divisions of the Vinaya Pitaka

I. Suttavibhanga

This section includes the complete set of rules for the Sangha, along with the "origin story" for each one. The rules are summarized in the Patimokkha, and amount to 227 rules for the bhikkhus, 311 for the bhikkhunis. The Patimokkkha rules are grouped as follows:

Selections from the Suttavibhanga:

II. Khandhaka (Mahavagga)

This includes several sutta-like texts, including the Buddha's account of the period immediately following his Awakening, his first sermons to the group of five monks, and stories about how some of the Buddha's great disciples joined the Sangha and themselves attained Awakening. Also included are the rules for ordination, for reciting the Patimokkha during uposatha days, and various procedures that monks are to perform during formal gatherings of the community.

Selections from the Mahavagga:

III. Khandhaka (Cullavagga)

This section includes an elaboration of the bhikkhus' etiquette and duties, as well as the rules and procedures for addressing offences that may be committed within the Sangha. Also included is the story of the establishment of the bhikkhuni Sangha, plus detailed accounts of the First and Second Councils.

Selections from the Cullavagga:

IV. Parivara

A recapitulation of the previous sections, with summaries of the rules classified and re-classified in various ways for instructional purposes.


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