In the language of India, Pratimoksha Sutra.
In English, The Sutra of Individual Liberation.
[Prefatory and Introductory Verses]
Homage to the Omniscient One.
(1) Your banner of glory is renowned in the triple world,
Your lion’s voice proclaims words of true Dharma;
Omniscient One who has found the store of jewels,
Brahma’s and Indra’s crown-jewels touch your feet.
(2) You have crossed the bottomless, endless ocean of suffering,
Chief of migrators – with my crown I salute you.
The vessel of jewels of the All-Knowing’s moral precepts
I shall unfold amidst the assembly of aryas¹.
(3) Of the entire, bottomless
And limitless ocean of the Buddha’s
Vinaya, the abiding heart
And essence is this pratimoksha.
(4) It is the supreme guide of all
Dharmas of the king of true Dharma.
It is the great shop selling trainings
Of the bhikshus’ merchants’ guild.
(5) It is a poison-clearing drug
For those immorality has seduced.
It is a goad for young bipeds
Blundering through youthfulness.
(6) It is a boat that rescues from
Samsara, deeper than the sea.
It is a certain dyke or bridge
For going to good destinies.
(7) It is the best royal counsellor
On the path that conquers the kleshas²;
It is like the base of a staircase
For entering the city of liberation.
(8) “When I have entered into nirvana
It will be your teacher” – so
With devotion the Self-Arisen earnestly
Praised it before the assembly of monks.
(9) Even the word expressing “buddha”
Is exceedingly rare in the worlds.
Gaining humanity is very hard.
Going forth also is very rare.
(10) Likewise, perfect morality of
Those gone forth is very rare.
Even with perfectly pure morality,
Good companions are hard to find.
(11) A buddha’s arising in the world,
Being human, going forth,
Perfect morality and good friends –
When they have found these rarities,
(12) The wise who want what’s good for them
Will desire to make them fruitful;
Such ascetics will endeavour
To listen to the pratimoksha.
(13) Monks with all faculties, senses tamed,
Changelessly gone-forth for buddhahood,
Desiring definite liberation,
Always keep the pratimoksha.
(14) Even in tens of millions of eons
It is rare to hear, retain
And comprehend the pratimoksha;
To practise it is also very rare.
(15) Happy is the arising of buddhas,
Happy their teaching of the Dharma,
Happy the concord of the Sangha,
Happy austerities of the concordant.
(16) Happy it is to see arya beings¹,
Happy the company of the holy,
And to see no childish beings
Is perpetual happiness.
(17) Happy it is to see moral people,
Happy it is to see the learned;
Seeing arhats³, who are free
From rebirth, is happiness.
(18) Happy the river with easy banks,
Happy the person familiar with Dharma.
Happy is the attainment of wisdom,
Happy the ending of pride of ‘I am’.
(19) Happy is the situation of
The resolute, who tame their senses and,
Learned, grow old in peaceful wilderness,
Letting their youthfulness pass by in forests.
(20) Joining my palms, with my ten fingers,
To that lion of the Shakyas,
I shall recite the pratimoksha.
Hear from me the vinaya’s meaning.
(21) Having heard, then practise just
As the Great Ascetic taught.
On the slightest non-virtues
Practise it with diligence.
(22) The pratimoksha is a bridle
With hundreds of sharp spikes, suited to
The horse of the mind, so hard to steer
And always driven with effort.
(23) Great ones who are stopped by just
A word, not going past the bounds,
Are the finest human horses,
Sure to overcome defilements.
(24) Those who do not have this bridle
Nor desire to ever, either,
Will roam about without settling down,
Confused by the army of defilements.
[Recitation of the Body of the Pratimoksha Sutra]
What follows, the four rules of defeat [parajika dharmas], the thirteen rules of suspension [sanghavasesa dharmas], the two indefinite rules [aniyata dharmas], the thirty rules of lapse with forfeiture [nihsargika-payantika dharmas], the ninety of simple lapse [payantika dharmas], the four rules requiring confession [pratidesaniya dharmas], the many rules of training [saiksa dharmas], and the seven rules for the quieting of disputes [seven adhikarana-samatha dharmas], come in the recitation of the Pratimoksha Sutra every halfmonth, so you have heard them before or will hear them later.
© Nalanda Monastery (France)
Offered with kind permission.
[Excerpt from the Body of the Pratimoksha Sutra]
The Four Parajika Dharmas
Now, O Venerable Ones, the four parajika dharmas come up in the half-monthly Pratimoksha Sutra recitation.
1. Whatever monk, having undertaken the proper course and training of the monks, should, not having rejected the training and not having revealed his weakness in the training, indulge in sexual intercourse, an unchaste thing, even so much as with an animal, this monk is parajika, expelled.
2. Whatever monk, having gone to a village or forest, should take from others what is not given, in a manner considered to be theft, and by such form of theft, a king or king’s minister, having seized him, would slay, bind, or banish him, saying, “O man, you are a thief, you are a fool, you are a robber”; should the monk take in this way what is not given, this monk is parajika, expelled.
3. Whatever monk should intentionally, with his own hand, deprive a human or one that has human form of life, supply him with a knife, search for an assassin for him, instigate him to death, or praise the nature of death, saying, “O man, what use is this dreadful, impure, sinful life to you? O man, death is better than life for you”; should [the monk] purposefully, being of one opinion, instigate him in many ways to death, or recommend the nature of death to him, and he (i.e., that man) should die by that [means], this monk is parajika, expelled.
4. Whatever monk, unknowing and not understanding, should boast of having superhuman faculties, sufficient knowledge and the specific spiritual realization of the nobles, and insight and a state of comfort which are inexistent and unobtained [by him], saying, “I know this, I see this”; and at a later time, the fallen [monk], desiring purity, being questioned or not being questioned, should say, “O Venerable Ones, I said I know, I see, [but it was] worthless, vain, false speaking”; unless [spoken] because of pride, this monk is parajika, expelled.
O Venerable Ones, the four parajika dharmas have been recited by me. Whatever monk, having committed one or another fault, is not to obtain dwelling or eating together with the monks. As before, so after; he is parajika, expelled. Therefore, I ask the Venerable Ones — Are you completely pure in this matter? A second and also a third time I ask the Venerable Ones — Are you completely pure in this matter? Since there is silence, the Venerable Ones are completely pure in this matter. Thus do I understand.
[… all other rules of a fully ordained monk in the Mulasarvastivada lineage follow. The recitation of the body of the Pratimoksha Sutra concludes with the seven adhikarana-samatha dharmas for the quieting of disputes.]
The Seven Adhikarana-Samatha Dharmas
Now, O Venerable Ones, the seven adhikarana-samatha dharmas come up in the half-monthly Pratimoksha Sutra recitation.
1. To a case worthy of settlement in the presence of, we shall impart settlement in the presence of.
2. To a case worthy of settlement based on recollection of, we shall impart settlement based on recollection of.
3. To a case worthy of settlement for one no longer insane, we shall impart settlement for one no longer insane.
4. To a case worthy of settlement by majority vote, we shall impart settlement by majority vote.
5. To a case worthy of settlement investigating the special nature [of the accused monk], we shall impart settlement investigating the special nature [of the accused monk].
6. To a case worthy of settlement which covers over, as with grass, we shall impart settlement which covers over, as with grass.
7. To a case worthy of settlement which effects confession, we shall impart settlement which effects confession.
We should cause legal questions which have arisen to be settled, stilled, according to the Dharma, Vinaya, and Teaching of the Teacher, by imparting these seven adhikarana-samatha dharmas.
O Venerable Ones, the seven adhikarana-samatha dharmas have been recited by me. Therefore, I ask the Venerable Ones — Are you completely pure in this matter? A second and also a third time I ask — Are you completely pure in this matter? Since there is silence, the Venerable Ones are completely pure in this matter. Thus do I understand.
(1) Enduring patience is the highest austerity,
nirvana is the highest, say the Buddhas;
for he who harms others is not a monk,
he who violates others is not a shramana⁴.
(2) Just as one endowed with sight, in exerting effort,
[should avoid] misconduct;
so the wise man should avoid the evils
in the world of men.
(3) Not censuring [others], not harming others,
and restraint according to the Pratimoksha;
moderation in eating, secluded dwelling,
and union with adhicitta; this is the
Teaching of the Buddhas.
(4) As a bee, not agitating the scent or color of a
flower, flies away, taking [only] the nectar;
so should a sage enter a village.
(5) [One should not contemplate] the faults of others,
or what is done and not done by others;
but one should contemplate the same difficulties
(6) For the wise one, trained in the steps of sagehood,
there is no delight in superior intellect;
for the tranquil protector, always mindful, there
are no sorrows.
(7) Merit increases for one who gives,
enmity does not accumulate for one who is well restrained;
the virtuous one renounces evil,
and because of putting an end to the kleshas², attains bliss.
(8) Not to do any evil, to attain good,
to completely subdue one’s own mind; this is the
Teaching of the Buddhas.
(9) Restraint of the body is good, restraint of speech is good,
and restraint in all regards is good;
the monk who is restrained in all regards
is released from all suffering.
(10) He who guards his speech, is well restrained in his mind,
and does not perform evil with his body;
being purified regarding the paths of action in these three,
shall attain the road proclaimed by the rishis⁵.
(11) and (12) This Pratimoksha was recited in detail by these seven
celebrated, self-possessed Buddhas who were the chief
protectors and guardians of the world: Vipaśyin, Sikhin,
Visvabhu, Krakucchanda, Kanakamuni, Kasyapa, and immediately
following, Shakyamuni Gautama, the God of Gods, the charioteer
who subdued men.
13. The Buddhas and Shravakas of the Buddhas are respectful
toward it [i.e., the Pratimoksha];
being respectful toward it, one obtains the unconditioned path.
14. Go forth, cling to, employ the Teaching of the Buddhas;
destroy the army of the Lord of Death,
like an elephant [destroys] a house of reeds.
15. One who will diligently engage in this Dharma and Vinaya,
having abandoned birth and samsara,
shall put an end to suffering.
16. This Pratimoksha has been recited, and Posadha made by the Sangha,
for the increase of the Teaching,
and for the sake of mutual protection of shila [ethical discipline].
17. For the sake of those for whom the Sutra has been recited,
and for the sake of those for whom Posadha has been made,
you should guard shila, as a yak protects its first-born.
18. Whatever merit has been gained from the full exposition of the Pratimoksha,
by that may this entire world obtain the position
of the Chief of Sages.
The Pratimoksha is concluded.
© C.S. Prebish
¹ Arya: A noble or exalted being. A practitioner who has directly realised the ultimate truth of reality (or selflessness / suchness / emptiness). This realisation is irreversible. In Mahayana Buddhism this person has attained the Path of Seeing; in Theravada Buddhism, this person is called a Stream Enterer.
² Kleshas: Afflictive emotions that are obstacles to liberation (nirvana) and that are objects of abandonment on the Path of Seeing and the Path of Meditation. Afflictive emotions such as anger, attachment, pride, ignorance etc. have to be abandoned for any person who wishes to attain one of the three types of awakening – the awakening (or enlightenment) of a Shravaka (Hearer), Pratekyabuddha (Solitary Realiser) or Buddha (samyaksambodhi).
³ Arhat: (Lit. “foe destroyer”) A follower of the Buddhist path who has reached the result of personal liberation – which means he has abandoned all afflictive emotions (skt. klesha) and their imprints so that they can never arise again. Arhats are free from cyclic existence (skt. samsara) and dwell in nirvana.
⁵ Rishi: “A term literally meaning ‘straightened’ and applied to spiritual practitioners who have straightened out their bodies, speech, and deeds. It is commonly used to describe meditators advanced in Hindu practices.” (The Splendor of an Autumn Moon – The Devotional Verses of Tsongkhapa, transl. and introduced by Gavin Kilty, Wisdom Publications 2001, p. 302)
Sangha: [lit. aspire to virtue], tib. dge 'dun, somtimes translated as “spiritual community”. However, a sangha requires traditionally at least four monks (= nominal sangha) or at least one arya being who has achieved the path of seeing among the five paths and therefore is liberated from samsara (=actual sangha or arya Sangha).
Header image: Shakyamuni Buddha, also known as Gautama Buddha, lived around 566 to 485 BCE in central north India. More…
An English translation of the Pratimoksa Sutra of the Mulasarvastivadins from the Sanskrit has been published by C.S. Prebish, Buddhist Monastic Discipline, Penn. State Univ. Press, 1975. According to Joe Wilson “This is a speculative translation based on philology alone, ignoring commentaries and the translations made within the tradition (i.e. the Tib. & Chinese), so while useful for comparison with the Pratimoksha Sutras of other traditions that, for lack of commentaries, have to be translated in a similar way, it is unsuitable for recitation.”
The Excerpt from the Body of the Pratimoksha Sutra and the Concluding Verses stem from this text and are offered here based on section 107 of US copyright law that identifies various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. For details see: