Monastic Discipline for The Buddhist Nuns (An English Translation of the chinese text of the Mahasamghika Bhiksuni- Vinaya)
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Monastic Discipline for The Buddhist Nuns (An English Translation of the chinese text of the Mahasamghika Bhiksuni- Vinaya)

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Item Code: NAR707
Author: Akira Hirakawa
Publisher: K. P. Jayaswal Research Institute, Patna
Language: English
Edition: 1999
Pages: 450
Other Details 9.50 X 6.50 inch
Weight 850 gm

This publication of "An English translation of the Chinese Text of the Mahasamghika-Bhiksurg-Vinaya" is based on the treatise showing the precepts practiced by the bhiksuul (female member of the Buddhist order) in the time of historical Buddha. It is called the Mahasamghika-Vinaya because it belongs to the Mahasamghika school, but origin-ally it was derived from the Vinayapitaka of the Early Buddhism, and when the original Buddhist order was separated into many schools, it was transmitted to the Mahasamghika school and has been kept in its tradition since then. The present English translation, however, is not the translation of the whole Mahasamghika-Vinaya, but only the Bhiksurg-Vinaya section, which is actually one eighth of the whole text.

The Chinese version (T 1425) of the Mahasarnghika-Vinaya is based on the text which was found by Fahsien who was visiting the asylum of Mahasanjghika school in Pataliputra located in the middle of India around the beginning of the 5th century. He copied the Sanskrit text, brought it back to China, and translated it into Chinese sometime between 416 a. c. to 418 a. c.

The motivation of translating the Chinese text of Bhiksuni-Vinaya into English was first aroused in me when I met Dr. Gustav Roth in Gottingen in the summer of 1960. I was an assistant Professor of the Tokyo University by then, and had an opportunity to do research work for three months at the Gottingen University by the kind invitation of Prof. Dr. Waldschmidt. I was informed by Dr. Roth that there was a Sanskrit text of Mahasarpghika-Bhiksurg-Vinaya which he was studying at that time, and he was kind enough to explain the contents of the very text. It was the text belonging to the school of Lokottaravadin, but the contents were very much alike to that of the Mahasarnghika-Bhi-ksuni-Vinaya translated into Chinese by Fa-hsien. The Lokottaravalin is the branch school separated from the Mahasamghika school, therefore, it might not be such a surprise to find these texts correspond to each other nevertheless, when I first found out this fact, I was very much impressed, and I wanted to know the contents of the Sanskrit text more closely.

Then Dr. Roth persuaded me to translate the section of Bhiksuni-Vinaya in the Chinese text of the Mahasamghika-Vinaya into English, and I accepted his advice willingly since I wanted to know more about the contents of the Sanskrit text which he had. He was also very kind to introduce me to the K. P. Jayaswal Research Institute in Patna for the publication of the future translation. The publication of this edition is due to his kind suggestion and encouragement, and I am very much indebted to his kindness and friendship. I wish to express my deepest gratitude for all what he had done to me.

It has been already twenty years since I met Dr. Roth in Gottingen, meanwhile, his study of the Sanskrit text of the Mahasamghika-Bhiksunl-Vinaya was completed and was published in 1970 in Patna, but my translation took much more time than I hoped. At the beginning I worked all by me; but translating the special Buddhist terms in Chinese into English was not an easy work. Then I could get the cooperation of Mr. Zenno Ikuno (M. A., Tokyo University) since around 1970, and also of Mr. Paul Groner, a graduate student of the Yale University who came to Japan in 1973 to study at the Tokyo University. Mr. Groner's main interest was on the Mahayana precepts, he showed the interests to the Vinaya-pitaka as well. With their cooperation, the work made a considerable progress, and by the time when I retired at the University of Tokyo and started to teach at the Waseda University in 1975, the translation was almost completed. Then I wrote the introduction and added many footnotes. And after a thorough examination, the final manuscript was completed which I sent to K. P. Jayaswal Research Institute in the autumn of 1979. It took a long time, but I was finally able to complete the work, mainly due to the cooperation of these two people I mentioned above, and I wish to express my deepest gratitude for their kind help and efforts.

I also wish to express my thanks to successive directors of the K. P. Jayaswal Research Institute during these twenty years. Without their encouragements and continuous pressing for the manuscript, I could hardly finish this work. I am very thankful to those successive directors, Prof. S. H. Askari, Dr. B. P. Sinha, Prof. A. Thakur and the present director, J. S. Jha. I am indebted, especially to Dr. Jata Shankar Jha who took care of miscellaneous works concerning the publication. He took the trouble of sending the proofreading copies to Tokyo where I live, and also took care of negotiating with the printing house and was in charge of the last proofreading. I owe him very much for the publication of this edition. I wish to express my hearty gratitude to him. I am also thankful to the kindness of Dr. A. Yuyama who took trouble to stop by Patna in January of 1980, for consulting with Dr. Jha about this publication.


The Place of the Mahasartighika-vinaya in Buddhist Literature The book is an English translation of the sections of the Chinese translation of the Mahasamghika-vinaya which contain rules and regulations concerning nuns (bhiksunis). The text has been annotated and an introduction has been added in order to elucidate the precepts which regulate the lives of the bhiksunis in the Buddhist Order. In addition, the Chinese text has been compared with the Sanskrit version of the Mahasamghika-bhiksuni-vinaya recently edited by Gustav Roth.

This translation is based on the vinaya transmitted by the Mahasamghika School. The term "vinaya" refers to the rules by which the early Buddhist Orders were governed. These rules were compiled into a collection called the vinaya-pitaka. The most basic elements of this literature probably assumed a set form soon after the Buddhist Order was found-ed. As the precepts were put into effect, additions to them were made. Finally, in approximately the second century B. C., the vinaya-pitaka which exists today was compiled. The precepts found in the vinaya-pitaka are divided into two sets, those followed by bhiksus (monks, and those followed by bhiksunis (nuns). This volume is a translation of the precepts for bhiksunis. They provide much information about the daily life of the Order of bhiksunis.

The Mahasamghika-vinaya is one of several extant vinayas. When the early Buddhist Order split into two groups, the Theravdda and Mahasanighika, each order transmitted its own version of the vinaya-pitaka. As these versions were being transmitted, the contents of the various vinaya-pitakas were revised and additions to them were made. Consequently a number of differences between the Theravada or Pali vinaya and the Mahasamghika-vinaya exist. However, the two works are essentially the same. A comparison of them indicates that they were based on the same source.

The schism of the early Buddhist Order into the Thera-vada (the Elders) and Mahasamghika (the Great Assembly) Schools occurred approximately one-hundred years after the Buddha's death during the reign of King Moka in the third century B. C. King Agoka converted to Buddhism, and through his help, Buddhism spread rapidly to all of India. However, as the Buddhist Order grew in size, men who held varying views were able to enter it. Eventually, the differences in views among the Bhiksuni resulted in the split of the Order into the Theravada and Mahasamghika Schools. The direct cause of the schism is usually attributed to friction between Bhiksuni who adhered strictly to the precepts and bhiksus who advocated a more liberal interpretation of the precepts that would have allowed various exceptions to the rules. The Theravadins advocated strict adherence to the precepts while the Mahasamghika adherents supported a freer interpretation.

The majority of Bhiksuni supported the Mahasamghika position. Because the Mahasamghika School advocated a more liberal interpretation, it was not a unified or tightly organized Order. Consequently shortly after the Mahasamghika School had been established, another schism occurred. During the second century following the Buddha's death, there were four schisms in groups related to the Mahasamghika School which resulted in eight or nine schools

Among the new groups was the Lokottaravddin School. The Sanskrit text of the Bhiksuni -vinaya used by this school was discovered in Tibet between 1935 and 1938 by Tripita-kacarya Sri Rahula Sankrtyayana. In 1970, Gustav Roth published the text, basing his edition on a photocopy of a complete set of palm-leaf manuscripts written in Proto-Bengali-curn-Maithili characters of the 11th-12th centuries (Gustav Roth, ed., Bhiksuni vinayapitaka : Including the Bhiksuni prakirnaka and a summary of the Bhiksu-prakirnaka of the Arya Mahasamghika - Lokottaravadin, Patna, 1970.

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