Bhikkhu nissaya training

Discussion of ordination, the Vinaya and monastic life. How and where to ordain? Bhikkhuni ordination etc.
Yong Fa
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Bhikkhu nissaya training

Postby Yong Fa » Fri Dec 30, 2016 2:17 am

Hello Dhammawheel,

I have a few questions about the five-year nissaya period that newly ordained bhikkhus undergo, during which they live in dependence on a teacher at a monastery.

1) Where are the origins of this practice in the Vinaya? Please provide a citation link if you can.

2) Does this recommendation come from the Buddha himself or from a later commentator?

3) What is done during these five years? Monks have told me that it involves the study of the patimokkha and suttas, and it is likely that one would also study Pali during this time. I am curious if there is anything else done in this period, and why five years is allotted.

Thank you,
Yongfa

monkeycat
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Re: Bhikkhu nissaya training

Postby monkeycat » Fri Dec 30, 2016 3:27 am

It varies depending on the monastery.

In Thai forest monasteries those 5 years seem to be mostly spent learning the Vinaya and doing various work tasks/chores.

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Dhammanando
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Re: Bhikkhu nissaya training

Postby Dhammanando » Fri Dec 30, 2016 7:39 am

Yong Fa wrote:I have a few questions about the five-year nissaya period that newly ordained bhikkhus undergo, during which they live in dependence on a teacher at a monastery.

1) Where are the origins of this practice in the Vinaya? Please provide a citation link if you can.


The details regarding nissaya are given in several sections of the Vinaya Piṭaka’s Mahāvagga and Cuḷavagga, but especially in the Nissayamuccanakakathā section of the former (Vin. i. 80) and the Niyassakamma section of the latter (Vin. ii. 7).

Mahāvagga: Release from Dependence

Cūḷavagga: Act of Guidance

Thanissaro’s Monastic Code, Nissaya Chapter
(includes elaboration from the Vinaya Commentaries)

Yong Fa wrote:2) Does this recommendation come from the Buddha himself or from a later commentator?


From the Buddha.

Yong Fa wrote:3) What is done during these five years? Monks have told me that it involves the study of the patimokkha and suttas, and it is likely that one would also study Pali during this time. I am curious if there is anything else done in this period,


The Vinaya doesn't lay down any kind of program for how the five years should be spent, but mainly concerns itself with laying down the duties of the pupil towards the teacher and the teacher towards the pupil, and stipulating what virtues are needed for a monk to be qualified to give nissaya and what are needed for a monk of five rains to be freed from nissaya (this isn't automatic — the saṅgha can insist on ten years in the case of an immature monk and even after ten years the release from nissaya may be revoked in the case of a badly behaved monk).

The absence of any program in the Vinaya means that each monastery or each sub-tradition will go about the training of a new monk in its own way.

Yong Fa wrote:and why five years is allotted.


No reason is given for prescribing this particular duration.

Yong Fa
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Re: Bhikkhu nissaya training

Postby Yong Fa » Sat Dec 31, 2016 2:54 am

Thank you Bhante. In reading through the first link, I also came across "the thirty-two (cases) where one should not let go forth." Most of these seem to involve cases where the person possesses some physical attribute that may affect their health or ability to live the monastic life, such as blindness or elephantiasis.

But it is interesting to also read that the Buddha did not allow people with seemingly benign characteristics to go forth, such as those with webbed fingers or "one who disgraced an assembly (by some deformity)." The Buddha seems to have been so accepting of people with regard to caste and social status, so I am curious as to why these stipulations on physical appearance are made. Is there an explanation for these from non-commentarial sources?

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pilgrim
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Re: Bhikkhu nissaya training

Postby pilgrim » Sat Dec 31, 2016 3:58 am

I believe it is technically 5 vassas, so depending on when one is ordained, it may be as short as 4 and a quarter years.

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Buddha Vacana
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Re: Bhikkhu nissaya training

Postby Buddha Vacana » Sat Dec 31, 2016 5:00 am

Yong Fa wrote:But it is interesting to also read that the Buddha did not allow people with seemingly benign characteristics to go forth, such as those with webbed fingers or "one who disgraced an assembly (by some deformity)." The Buddha seems to have been so accepting of people with regard to caste and social status, so I am curious as to why these stipulations on physical appearance are made. Is there an explanation for these from non-commentarial sources?

Ajahn Thanissaro discusses it at the end of the related section in BMC. In a nutshell, there were a lot of people with deformities or lifetime sicknesses and probably no social security to take care of them, so they may have tried to ordain en masse, not for the purpose of enlightenment but for free food and free accommodation. Also, monks have a duty to look after sick other monks, and it may cost them a lot of practice time. Now if the Sangha is made up of a large portion of sick people, it basically becomes a giant hospital and no one has any more time for practice.


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