The Discourse concerning Gotamī
(AN 8.51)



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Requesting the Going-Forth

At one time the Fortunate One was dwelling amongst the Sakiyans, near to Kapilavatthu, in Nigrodha’s Monastery. Kapilavatthu was the Buddha’s home town. Nigrodha was a Sakyan who donated this park to the Saṅgha. For more information on this monastery see the long entry in DPPN.01

Then Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī approached the Fortunate One, and after approaching and worshipping the Fortunate One, she stood on one side. While standing on one side Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī said this to the Fortunate One: “It is good, reverend Sir, if women could receive, in this Dhamma and Discipline taught by the Realised One, the going forth from the home to the homeless life.”

“Enough, Gotamī! Please do not wish for women, in this Dhamma and Discipline taught by the Realised One, the going forth from the home to the homeless life.”

For a second time Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī said this to the Fortunate One: “It is good, reverend Sir, if women could receive, in this Dhamma and Discipline taught by the Realised One, the going forth from the home to the homeless life.”

“Enough, Gotamī! Please do not wish for women, in this Dhamma and Discipline taught by the Realised One, the going forth from the home to the homeless life.”

For a third time Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī said this to the Fortunate One: “It is good, reverend Sir, if women could receive, in this Dhamma and Discipline taught by the Realised One, the going forth from the home to the homeless life.”

“Enough, Gotamī! Please do not wish for women, in this Dhamma and Discipline taught by the Realised One, the going forth from the home to the homeless life.”

Then Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī, thinking: ‘The Fortunate One does not allow for women, in this Dhamma and Discipline taught by the Realised One, the going forth from the home to the homeless life,’ pained and depressed, crying, with tears on her face, having worshipped and circumambulated the Fortunate One, went away.

Then the Fortunate One, having dwelt in Kapilavatthu for as long as he liked, went on walking tour towards Vesālī, and while walking gradually on walking tour he arrived at Vesālī. There the Fortunate One dwelt near Vesālī, in the Great Wood, at the Gabled Hall.

Then Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī, after having her hair cut off, and donning ochre clothes, together with a great many Sakiyan ladies, went towards Vesālī, and gradually approached the Great Wood, and the Gabled Hall at Vesālī. Then Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī, with swollen feet, and dust on her limbs, pained and depressed, crying, with tears on her face, stood outside the doorway.

Venerable Ānanda saw Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī, with swollen feet, and dust on her limbs, pained and depressed, crying, with tears on her face, stood outside the doorway. And after seeing (her), he said this to Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī: “Why are you, Gotamī, with swollen feet, and dust on your limbs, pained and depressed, crying, with tears on your face, standing outside the doorway?”

“Because, venerable Ānanda, the Fortunate One does not allow for women, in this Dhamma and Discipline taught by the Realised One, the going forth from the home to the homeless life.”

“Then, Gotamī, just wait here, while I request the Fortunate One for women, in this Dhamma and Discipline taught by the Realised One, the going forth from the home to the homeless life.”

Then venerable Ānanda approached the Fortunate One, and after approaching and worshipping the Fortunate One, he sat down on one side.

While sitting on one side venerable Ānanda said this to the Fortunate One: “This Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī, reverend Sir, with swollen feet, and dust on her limbs, pained and depressed, crying, with tears on her face, is standing outside the doorway, thinking: ‘The Fortunate One does not allow for women, in this Dhamma and Discipline taught by the Realised One, the going forth from the home to the homeless life.’ It is good, reverend Sir, if women could receive, in this Dhamma and Discipline taught by the Realised One, the going forth from the home to the homeless life.”

“Enough, Ānanda! Please do not wish for women, in this Dhamma and Discipline taught by the Realised One, the going forth from the home to the homeless life.”

For a second time venerable Ānanda said this to the Fortunate One: “It is good, reverend Sir, if women could receive, in this Dhamma and Discipline taught by the Realised One, the going forth from the home to the homeless life.”

“Enough, Ānanda! Please do not wish for women, in this Dhamma and Discipline taught by the Realised One, the going forth from the home to the homeless life.”

For a third time venerable Ānanda said this to the Fortunate One: “It is good, reverend Sir, if women could receive, in this Dhamma and Discipline taught by the Realised One, the going forth from the home to the homeless life.”

“Enough, Ānanda! Please do not wish for women, in this Dhamma and Discipline taught by the Realised One, the going forth from the home to the homeless life.”

Then it occurred to venerable Ānanda: ‘The Fortunate One does not allow for women, in this Dhamma and Discipline taught by the Realised One, the going forth from the home to the homeless life. What if I were to ask the Fortunate One in a different way for women, in this Dhamma and Discipline taught by the Realised One, the going forth from the home to the homeless life?’

Then venerable Ānanda said this to the Fortunate One: “Is it possible, reverend Sir, for women, in this Dhamma and Discipline taught by the Realised One, having gone forth from the home to the homeless life, to directly experience the fruit of Stream Entry, or the fruit of Once-Returning, or the fruit of Non-Returning, or the fruit of Liberation?”

“It is possible, Ānanda, that women, in this Dhamma and Discipline taught by the Realised One, having gone forth from the home to the homeless life, to directly experience the fruit of Stream Entry, and the fruit of Once-Returning, and the fruit of Non-Returning, and the fruit of Liberation.”

“If it is possible, reverend Sir, for women, in this Dhamma and Discipline taught by the Realised One, having gone forth from the home to the homeless life, to directly experience the fruit of Stream Entry, and the fruit of Once-Returning, and the fruit of Non-Returning, and the fruit of Liberation, and Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī was a great help, reverend Sir, she is the Fortunate One’s maternal aunt, his wet-nurse, who looked after him and gave him milk, and after the Fortunate One’s Mother had died, she gave him suck at the breast. It would be good, reverend Sir, if women could receive, in this Dhamma and Discipline taught by the Realised One, the going forth from the home to the homeless life.”

 

The Eight Serious Rules

“If, Ānanda, Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī accepts these eight serious rules, this will be the higher ordination for her:

A nun having a hundred years (seniority), in regard to a monk ordained that day, should worship, rise from the seat, salute and pay homage. Ayyā Tathālokā, in a private communication, points out that this is the only one of the serious rules that doesn’t appear in the Bhikkhunī Pātimokkha. It is found in the Cullavagga, directly after this story, raising the likelihood that it was instituted after the Vibhaṅga texts were closed, but while the Cullavagga was still open to modification. 02 This is a rule that should be respected, treated seriously, be honoured, worshipped, and should not be transgressed for as long as her life lasts.

A nun should not enter the Rains Retreat in a dwelling place without monks. This corresponds to Bhikkhuni Pācittaya, 56. Three other rules (3, 4, and 7) also correspond to pācittiya (confession) rules in the Bhikkhunī Pātimokkha, and have their own origin stories, which portray the Bhikkhunīsaṅgha as already established. This surely indicates either that they were not established at the beginning, or that the eight serious rules are anachronistic. 03 This is a rule that should be respected, treated seriously, be honoured, worshipped, and should not be transgressed for as long as her life lasts.

Every fortnight the nuns are to expect two things from the Community of monks: asking about the Observance day, and approaching (the monks) for (getting) advice. This corresponds to Bhikkhuni Pācittaya, 59.04 This is a rule that should be respected, treated seriously, be honoured, worshipped, and should not be transgressed for as long as her life lasts.

A nun emerging from the Rains Retreat should invite both Communities in regard to three reasons: with what was seen, or what was heard or what was suspected. This corresponds to Bhikkhuni Pācittaya, 57, and refers to the invitation (pavāraṇa) for correction held at the end of the Rains, when the monastics have been living together long enough to make a balanced appraisal of someone’s behaviour. The monks also invite correction, but only from the Community of monks. 05 This is a rule that should be respected, treated seriously, be honoured, worshipped, and should not be transgressed for as long as her life lasts.

A nun who is guilty of a serious offence Here we see the word garudhamma used as a synonym for a Saṅghādisesa offence, the most serious class of offenses that can be repaired. The same word is used with the same meaning in the next discourse too. It is curious that the same term should be used for these rules for the nuns, when none of the rules are, in fact, Saṅghādisesa, and a number are rather confession (pācittiya) offenses in the bhikkhunī Pātimokkha.06 should observe reparation for a fortnight before both Communities. The monks only do reparation (mānatta) for one week, and only before their own Community. 07 This is a rule that should be respected, treated seriously, be honoured, worshipped, and should not be transgressed for as long as her life lasts.

Only a trainee who has trained in the six training rules for two years should seek for higher ordination before both Communities. Another anachronism, as the original ordination procedure entailed being ordained by the monks only. 08 This is a rule that should be respected, treated seriously, be honoured, worshipped, and should not be transgressed for as long as her life lasts.

A nun should not abuse or censure a monk by any means. This corresponds to Bhikkhuni Pācittaya, 52.09 This is a rule that should be respected, treated seriously, be honoured, worshipped, and should not be transgressed for as long as her life lasts.

From today forward nuns are prohibited from speaking (advice about discipline) to monks, (but) monks are not prohibited from speaking (advice about discipline) to nuns. This is a rule that should be respected, treated seriously, be honoured, worshipped, and should not be transgressed for as long as her life lasts.

If, Ānanda, Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī accepts these eight serious rules, that will be her higher ordination.”

 

Accepting the Rules

Then venerable Ānanda, having learned these eight serious rules in the presence of the Fortunate One, approached Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī, and after approaching he said this to Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī: “If you, Gotamī, could accept these eight serious rules, this will be for you your higher ordination:

A nun having a hundred years (seniority), in regard to a monk ordained that day, should worship, rise from the seat, salute and pay homage. This is a rule that should be respected, treated seriously, be honoured, worshipped, and should not be transgressed for as long as her life lasts.

A nun should not enter the Rains Retreat in a dwelling place without monks. This is a rule that should be respected, treated seriously, be honoured, worshipped, and should not be transgressed for as long as her life lasts.

Every fortnight the nuns are to expect two things from the Community of monks: asking about the Observance day, and approaching (the monks) for (getting) advice. This is a rule that should be respected, treated seriously, be honoured, worshipped, and should not be transgressed for as long as her life lasts.

A nun emerging from the Rains Retreat should invite both Communities in regard to three reasons: with what was seen, or what was heard or what was suspected. This is a rule that should be respected, treated seriously, be honoured, worshipped, and should not be transgressed for as long as her life lasts.

A nun who is guilty of a serious offence should observe reparation for a fortnight before both Communities. This is a rule that should be respected, treated seriously, be honoured, worshipped, and should not be transgressed for as long as her life lasts.

Only a trainee who has trained in the six training rules for two years should seek for higher ordination before both Communities. This is a rule that should be respected, treated seriously, be honoured, worshipped, and should not be transgressed for as long as her life lasts.

A nun should not abuse or censure a monk by any means. This is a rule that should be respected, treated seriously, be honoured, worshipped, and should not be transgressed for as long as her life lasts.

From today forward nuns are prohibited from speaking (advice about discipline) to monks, (but) monks are not prohibited from speaking (advice about discipline) to nuns. This is a rule that should be respected, treated seriously, be honoured, worshipped, and should not be transgressed for as long as her life lasts.

If you, Gotamī, could accept these eight serious rules, that will be for you your higher ordination.”

“It is as though, venerable Ānanda, a woman or a man, young, youthful, having ornaments, with head washed, had been given a garland of waterlilies, or a garland of jasmine, or a garland of whirlybird flowers, and having accepted it with both hands, were to place it on top of the most important limb, on the head, just so, venerable Ānanda, I accept these eight serious rules which should not be transgressed for as long as life lasts.”

 

The Warnings

Then venerable Ānanda approached the Fortunate One, and after approaching and worshipping the Fortunate One, he sat down on one side. While sitting on one side venerable Ānanda said this to the Fortunate One: “Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī, reverend Sir, has accepted the eight serious rules which should not be transgressed for as long as life lasts.”

“If, Ānanda, women, in this Dhamma and Discipline taught by the Realised One, had not obtained the going forth from the home to the homeless life, Ānanda, the spiritual life would have been long-lasting, the Good Dhamma would have endured for a thousand years. But because, Ānanda, women, in this Dhamma and Discipline taught by the Realised One, have gone forth from the home to the homeless life, now, Ānanda, the spiritual life will not be long-lasting, the Good Dhamma, Ānanda, will now endure for (only) five hundred years. See the discussion in the Introduction. 10

Just as, Ānanda, those families having lots of women and few men, are easily plundered by thieves and night-time robbers, just so, Ānanda, wherever in this Dhamma and Disciple women receive the going forth from the home to the homeless life, the spiritual life will not be long-lasting. The whole tone of this end section is so out of keeping with the Buddha’s other sayings, that it seems it must be an interpolation. 11

Just as, Ānanda, in ripe rice fields which go down with the disease called Deadheart, that rice field is not long-lasting, just so, Ānanda, wherever in this Dhamma and Disciple women receive the going forth from the home to the homeless life, the spiritual life will not be long-lasting.

Just as, Ānanda, in ripe sugar-cane fields which go down with the disease called Red Rot, that sugar-cane field is not long-lasting, just so, Ānanda, wherever in this Dhamma and Disciple women receive the going forth from the home to the homeless life, the spiritual life will not be long-lasting.

Just as, Ānanda, a man might prepare an embankment as a precaution round a large lake so that the water does not overflow, just so, Ānanda, the eight serious rules were laid down by me as a precaution which should not be transgressed for as long as life lasts.”