2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Religious texts

Part of a  series on


Dharmic religions
Timeline of Buddhism
Buddhist councils


Four Noble Truths
Noble Eightfold Path
Buddhist Precepts
Nirvāṇa · Three Jewels

Key Concepts

Three marks of existence
Skandha · Cosmology · Dharma
Saṃsāra · Rebirth · Shunyata
Pratitya-samutpada · Karma

Major Figures

Gautama Buddha
Disciples · Later Buddhists

Practices and Attainment

Buddhahood · Bodhisattva
Four Stages of Enlightenment
Paramis · Meditation · Laity


Southeast Asia · East Asia
India · Sri Lanka · Tibet
Western Countries


Theravāda · Mahāyāna
Vajrayāna · Early schools


Pali Canon · Mahayana Sutras
Tibetan Canon

Comparative Studies
Culture · List of Topics
Portal: Buddhism


The Vinaya (a word in Pāli as well as in Sanskrit, with literal meaning 'humility') is the textual framework for the Buddhist monastic community, or sangha. The teachings of the Buddha, or Buddhadharma can be divided into two broad categories: ' Dharma' or doctrine, and 'Vinaya', or discipline. Generally speaking, the former is concerned with theory and the latter with practice, although there is actually considerable cross-over between the two. 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 schools that 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 Thailand follow the Theravadin Vinaya, which has 227 rules for the bhikkhus (male monastics) and 311 for the bhikkhunis (female monastics). Buddhists in China, the few bhikkhus and bhikkhunis in Japan, and those in Korea and Vietnam follow the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya, which has 250 rules for the bhikkhus and 348 rules for the bhikkhunis. Buddhists in Tibet and Mongolia follow the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya, which has 253 rules for the bhikkhus and 364 rules for bhikkhunis. 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 Sutta the 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 Ananda reciting the dhamma and Upali reciting the Vinaya.

Retrieved from ""