This has became an issue in Thailand only recently but Wat Pah Pong (Ajahn Chah tradition) already raised this point with Ajahn Kukrit and removed his monastery from the list of branches several years ago. His general approach did not fit it with the emphasis of the forest tradition which is based on respect for elders and following long-established ways of practice. Ajahn Kukrit insists that only the words of the Buddha himself -- not even those of arahants like Sariputta or Moggallana, let alone present day teachers -- should be taken as authoritative and studied.
Actually this dispute is only about the proper ritual or way of reciting the Patimokkha rules. Normally, Theravada monks everywhere recite all 227 rules (but there are many hundreds of rules in the Vinaya which are not recited, although they should be followed). Ajahn Kukrit thinks that monks don't have to recite the 75 sekhiya and 7 adhikarana-samatha which come at the very end. But he still keeps all those rules of course.
Ajahn Kukrit is basing himself on this passage:
AN 3.84 (ChS, 85): Sādhikamidaṁ, bhante, diyaḍḍhasikkhāpadasataṁ anvaddhamāsaṁ uddesaṁ āgacchati. ("Venerable Sir, more than 150 training precepts come up for recitation every half-month.")
However, he prefers another Thai translation (apparently incorrect) which says "exactly 150 rules".
The commentary says:Tasmiṁ samaye paññattāni sikkhāpadāneva sandhāyetaṁ vuttaṁ. ("This was said with regard to the training precepts as laid down at that time.")
There are some followers of Ajahn Kukrit who are open-minded and want to learn more, but unfortunately many of them are "new converts" who are full of faith in their Ajahn, so much so that they take him as the One and Only Authority on Buddhism in Thailand. I suspect that his character and his background (he was a military officer) is part of it as well, he can be very convincing when he speaks and draw a lot of people like a leader figure. Apparently he has some very hi-so followers who donate a lot of money for his projects, so he feels strong and confident. Most of the things he teaches are very good and he encourages Thai people to go back to the early teachings of the Buddha, but unfortunately he lacks the sufficient knowledge of Buddhist history and Pali language, and that is why he makes some wrong judgments and obvious mistakes like this one. But he has a stubborn character and he will not admit his mistake, because he would probably "lose his face" in front of his followers. This is also why he was excluded from the Wat Pah Pong group.
I was interested in this issue and I collected some relevant texts and videos below, especially those from English-language sources which might not be well-known in Thailand. It really seems that in the early history of the Sangha (until the time of Milindapanha or even later?) the number of the Patimokkha rules was not fixed at "227" yet, but at some point later on the Theravada school decided to include all the sekhiya and adhikarana-samatha rules as well. This is what became the "Theravada standard" of the Patimokkha, which defines it as a Buddhist school in SE Asia ever since. If someone today wants to go back to the early stage of Sangha development (more than 2000 years ago) it is hardly possible, because that would change the whole way in which "Theravada" defines itself. And I doubt that the Sangha hierarchy in Thailand would approve of that, unless somebody very powerful (like a king) would push for that as part of "Sangha purification" (sangha-visodhana), which happened several times in history.
I just came across an edict by King Taksin who purified the Sangha and had exams for all monks to get rid of the ignorant ones, and then urged all bhikkhus to learn the "227 Patimokkha rules" with Thai translation and keep them well. So if the King commanded it, then this is what the Sangha had to do:In Lesser Saka Era 1135 (CE 1773) King Taksin of
Thonburi issued a ‘Decree on the Training in Ethics (silasikkha)' which
gave the text of the monastic code (Patimokkha) in Thai. Each of the
227 rules was followed by a brief statement of the result of breaking it.
For example, the ﬁrst four rules, the parajika, which entail expulsion from
the order, are followed by ‘one who breaks [the rule] falls to the Hell
of Unremitting Torment (Avicinaraka)’. The decree concludes with the
These are the 227 training rules (sikkhapada): let a monk of good
family (samana-kulaputra) who does not know the commentaries
(atthakatha) or the canon (pali) study them until they are bright and
clear in his mind (khandha-santana), and then ordain and practice
according to this order in every respect.
Not long afterwards, King Rama I was dissatisﬁed with the state of the
monastic order. Starting in the ﬁrst year of his reign (1782) he issued a series
of ten edicts, the Kot phra song, to reform the conduct of the monks.
(Buddhism, Power, and Political Order, ed. Ian Harris, Routledge, p. 197)
Here is an explanation of this issue in Thai by a well-know scholar monk:
กรณีพระอาจารย์คึกฤทธิ์ ให้ตัดปาฏิโมกข์เหลือ 150 ข้อ
พระพรหมคุณาภรณ์ (P.A. Payutto)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAfvcPJjziY
Here is a quote from the Vinaya Mukha book as part of the Nak Tham 2 (standard Buddhist course in Thailand) which was written by the reformist royal monk Phra Vajiranyana over 100 years ago:
๑. สิกขาบทในพระปาติโมกข์ มีจำนวน ๑๕๐ คือ ปาราชิก ๔ สังฆาทิเสส ๑๓ นิสสัคคียปาจิตตีย์ ๓๐ ปาจิตตีย์ ๙๒ ปาฏิเทสนียะ ๔ และ อธิกรณสมถะ ๗
๒. สิกขาบทนอกพระปาติโมกข์ ไม่ได้บอกจำนวนไว้แน่นอน รวมทั้ง อนิยต ๒ และ เสขิยวัตร ๗๕ เข้าด้วย
THE TRAINING RULES ARE DIVIDED IN TWO
1. Training rules within the Pātimokkha [Of these] there are 150. They are: the 4 Pārājikas, the 13 Sanghādisesas, the 30 Nissagīya-pācittīyas, the 92 Pācittīyas, the 4 Pāṭidesanīyas and the 7 Adhikaraṇasamathas.
2. Training rules outside the Pātimokkha: An exact number is not given. They include the 2 Aniyatas and the 75 Sekhiyavattas.
Ajahn Buddhadasa also repeated this in one of his books, which is where Ajahn Kukrit got it from.
* * *
See also: A Translation and Analysis of the Patimokkha
by Nyanatusita Bhikkhu
The Pátimokkha and its Meaning
The Pátimokkha consists of two hundred and twenty training precepts (sikkhápada): 7 párájika, 13 saòghádisesa,
2 aniyata, 30 nissaggiya pácittiya, 92 pácittiya, 4 páþidesanìya, and 75 sekhiya.
The number of two hundred and twenty seven rules, which some modern scholars give, is incorrect. The
seven adhikaraóasamatha-dhammas are ways of settling legal issues and can therefore not be counted as training precepts. In the Suttavibhaòga there is not any Padabhájana comment on the adhikaraóasamathas and
this also indicates their non-sikkhápada status. It might also suggest that their inclusion in the Pátimokkha was a later addition.
Buddhaghosa thera did not include the seven adhikaranasamathadhamma in the Mahávibhaòga (=
Bhikkhuvibhaòga): “Thus the Great Analysis is two hundred and twenty training training rules …”: “Evaí
vìsádhikáni dve sikkhápadasatáni mahávibhaògo ti …”; D-a I 13.
In a suttanta in the Aòguttara Nikáya “more than hundred and fifty” are given as the number of rules
that come up for recitation. A I 230: “Venerable Sir, more than 150 training precepts come up for recitation
every half-month.”: “Sádhikam-idaí, bhante, diyaððhasikkhápadasataí anvaddhamásaí uddesaí ágacchati..” As
the commentary86 suggests, this could be an earlier reckoning from the period when the Buddha was
regularly laying down new rules. (See also MN 65/M I 44–45 where Ven. Bhaddáli asks why there were
fewer rules before.) However, it could also be that the 75 sekhiyas were originally not included in the
Pátimokkha or were not considered and counted as full training rules. The divergence in the number of
Sekhiya rules in the early Buddhist schools also indicates this. (Note that 150 + 75 = 225, which approximates the number of rules in the Pm.) It could also be a round number, like the number 500 which is often used to denote a large group of monks in the Pali Canon.http://www.bps.lk/onlib_other_pali_studies.asp
* * *Chronology of the Pali Canon
Bimala Churn Law, Ph.D., M.A., B.L.
Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona, pp.171-201
As for the date of the composition of the two Patimokkha codes, one for the bhikkhus (monks) and other for the bhikkhunis (nuns), it is important to bear in mind that according to an ancient Buddhist tradition cited by Buddhaghosa, the Patimokkha codes as they are handed down to us are two among the Vinaya texts which were not rehearsed in the first Buddhist council (Sumangalavilasini, pt. I., p. 17). It may he readily granted that the codification of the Patimokkha rules in the extant shape was not accomplished immediately after the demise of the Buddha. It is one thing to say this and it is quite another that the rules themselves in a classified form had not been in existence from the earlier times. The Cullavagga account of the first Buddhist council throws some clear light on the process of codification. It is said that the utterance of the dying Buddha authorising his followers to do away with the minor rules of conduct (Khuddanu-khuddakani sikkhapadani), if they so desired, formed a bone of contention among the bhikkhus who took part in the proceedings of the first Buddhist Council (See Milinda Panha, pp.142-144). They were unable to decide which were precisely the minor rules they were authorised to dispense with. Some suggested all but the four Parajika rules, some, all but the four Parajika and thirteen Samghadisesa rules, some, all but the four Parajika, 13 Samghadisesa and two Aniyata rules and thirty Nissaggiya rules; some, all but the four Parajika, 13 Samghadisesa, two Aniyata, thirty Nissaggiya and ninety-two Pacittiya rules and some suggested all but 4 Parajika, 13 Samghadisesa, 2 Aniyata, 30 Nissaggiya, 92 Pacittiya and 4 Patidesaniya rules. The suggestion stopped with the 4 Patidesaniya rules and did not proceed beyond them, leaving us in the dark as to what the bhikkhus meant by all but 11 all these " (counted by names). The Patimokkha code in its final form includes two hundred and twenty-seven rules, that is to say, the seven adhikarana samathas and seventy-five sekhiya rules in addition to those mentioned in the Cullavagga account. Omitting the 75 sekhiya rules the total of the Patimokkha precepts of conduct would come up to 152, If the theras of the first Buddhist Council had in their view a Patimokkha code in which the 75 Sekhiya rules had no place, the total of precepts in the code recognised by them was 152. Now we have to enquire if there is any definite literary evidence to prove that in an earlier stage of codification, the total of the Patimokkha precepts was fixed at 152. Happily the evidence is not far to seek. The Anguttara Nikaya, as we heave seen above, contains two passages to indicate that the earlier Patimokkha code contained one and half hundred rules or little more (Sadhikam diyaddhasikkhapadasatam). * The earlier Patimokkha code with its total of 152 rules may be shown to have been earlier than the Suttavibhanga on the ground that the Sutta-Vibhanga scheme makes room for the 75 Sekhiya rules, thereby rocognising the Patimokkha total to be 227 which was possible only in the second or final stage of codification of the Patimokkha rules.
[ * Cf. Milinda Panha which refers to the some total of the Patimokkha rules in the expression "Diyaddhesu Sikkhapadasatesu."]http://www.budsas.org/ebud/ebsut053.htm
* * *
This discussion will first examine the meaning and contents of Pratimoksa (Pali: Patimokkha) as well as how it has been defined in Vinaya texts, particularly in Pali canon. The content and number of training rules in Pratimoksa are particularly significant in Buddhist chronology according to the Pali canons and other sources from various schools. According to Pachow, the Milindapanha (Nikaya) and Agama (Chinese translation) provide the exact numbers of Pratimoksa; the Pali canon gives 150 rules whereas other sutras in Agama (such as Samyktagama sutras, cf. A. III.87 Sadhika; A. III. 85-86 Sekha; and, A. III. 83 Vajjputta) give 205 rules. However, both the numbers and documents provide an important connection by stressing that the rules have been recited every half month during Uposatha days. Another source, the Pali Text Society’s translation, noted precisely 150 rules; the 75 Sekhiyas and 2 Aniyata were added subsequently, creating 227 total rules for bhikkhus’ training.
(See W. Pachow, A Comparative Study of The Pratimoksa: On the basic of its Chinese, Tibetan, Sanskrit and Pali versions (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 2000)
* * *
About the growing number of sekhiya rules:Charles S. Prebish: "The Role of Prātimokṣa Expansion in the Rise of Indian Buddhist Sectarianism"
In Pacific World: Journal of the Institute of Buddhist Studies, third series, no. 9, 2010.
Available freely on line:http://www.shin-ibs.edu/documents/pwj3- ... bish39.pdf
* * *
So now the Mahathera-samakhom verdict is out: All Theravada monks should chant 227 Patimokkha rules. To cut it down to 150 is not correct. Ajahn Kukrit will receive an official letter about this and will be expected to follow it.