How important is the Vinaya?

To promote understanding to the different point of views of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and the New Kadampa Tradition regarding NKT-ordination and the point of view of the Australian Sangha Association (ASA), here the words of Buddhist authorities.

How important is the Vinaya?

Buddha Shakyamuni (Vinaya Sutra)

As long as the complete Vinaya, the supreme treasure, abides, The Lamp of Dharma shall abide.[1]

How extensive is the Vinaya?

Altogether the Vinaya is twelve volumes, containing 327 fascicles (bam po), i.e. 98100 shloka or about three million syllables. The “internal summaries” are in fact found in the Pratimoksha-sutra, a short text preceding the Vinaya-vibhanga. The Vinaya-vastu (Lun gzi – ‘Dul ba gzi) is the first of the four great books of the Vinaya-pitaka, and occupies four volumes of the Kangyur. It is followed by the Vinaya-vibhanga (three volumes for bhikshus, and another for bhikshunis), the Vinaya-ksudraka-vastu (two volumes) and the Vinaya-uttara-grantha (two volumes).[2]

What is the Pratimoksha?

The means dependent on which one goes With ease to liberation’s city, The Sugata’s doctrine’s supreme essence, Which is known as pratimoksha.[3]

How important is the Pratimoksha?

In the bimonthly Sojong purification rite for bhikshus, just before the recitation of the Pratimoksha-sutra, it is stated:

The recognition of the Teacher, the Buddha, in the pratimoksha; the recognition of diligence in one’s own training; and the recognition that the long abiding of the Conqueror’s doctrine depends on this method – pray listen with these three set in your mind.

Excerpt from the Pratimoksha-sutra

Buddha Shakyamuni (Pratimoksha-sutra)

Of the entire, bottomless And limitless ocean of the Buddha’s Vinaya, the abiding heart And essence is this pratimoksha. 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. “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. Even the word expressing “buddha” Is exceedingly rare in the worlds. Gaining humanity is very hard. Going forth also is very rare. Likewise, perfect morality of Those gone forth is very rare. Even with perfectly pure morality, Good companions are hard to find. A buddha’s arising in the world, Being human, going forth, Perfect morality and good friends – When they have found these rarities, The wise who want what’s good for them Will desire to make them fruitful; Such ascetics will endeavour To listen to the pratimoksha. 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. Great ones who are stopped by just A word, not going past the bounds, Are the finest human horses, Sure to overcome defilements. Those who do not have this bridle Nor desire to ever, either, Will roam about without settling down, Confused by the army of defilements.

Je Tsongkhapa (The Essence of Vinaya)

From keeping these vows, one will gain the temporal fruit, divine or human birth, and the ultimate fruit, the three awakenings. Since this is taught, the energetic always keep the pratimoksha, devotedly striving.

Pratimoksha Sutra of the Mulasarvastivadins

  • Introduction to the Pratimoksha Sutra – Geshe Tekchok: Monastic Rites, London 1985
  • Mahamahopadyaya Satis Chandra Vidyabhusana: So-sor-thar-pa : The Tibetan version of the Pratimoksha Sutra of the Mulasarvastivadins
  • The Bhikshuni Pratimoksha Sutra of the Mulasarvastivadin School
  • Je Tsongkhapa: The Essence of the Vinaya Ocean
  • Pratimoksha Sūtra from the Gelong Sojong text of Sera Je monastery (bimonthly ritual of confession proscribed by the Buddha for Buddhist monks and nuns)
  • The Sutra on Being Endowed with Morality: Sila Samyukta Sutra


Through these merits, may sentient beings attain The rank of all-seeing, subdue the foe of faults, And be delivered from samsara’s ocean, Perturbed by waves of aging, sickness and death.

[1] HH the XIV Dalai Lama, Advice from Buddha Shakyamuni, p.2, Dharamsala, LTWA
[2] Joe Wilson, Regular Monastic Rites in a Tibetan Buddhist Tradition, unpublished manuscript

Last edited by tenpel on September 30, 2012 at 3:15 pm (all copyrighted material was removed and links to online material were added)