WARREN: BUDDHISM IN TRANSLATIONS

402

 

 


 

 

Ī 83. The Buddhist Confession of Priests

Translated from the Mahā-Vagga (ii.1.1)

Now at that time The Buddha, The Blessed One, was dwelling at Rājagaha on Vulture Peak. And at that time the heretical sect of wandering ascetics met together on the fourteenth, fifteenth, and eighth day of the half-month, and recited their doctrine. And the people drew near to listen to their doctrine, and conceived a liking for the heretical sect of wandering ascetics, and put faith in their teachings; and the heretical sect of wandering ascetics gained adherents.

[403] Now it happened to Seniya Bimbisāra, king of Magadha, being in seclusion and plunged in meditation, that a consideration presented itself to his mind, as follows:

"Here the heretical sect of wandering ascetics meet together on the fourteenth, fifteenth, and eighth day of the half-month, and recite their doctrine. And the people draw near to listen to their doctrine, and conceive a liking for the heretical sect of wandering ascetics, and put faith in them; and the heretical sect of wandering ascetics gain adherents. What if now the reverend ones also were to meet together on the fourteenth, fifteenth, and eighth day of the half-month."

Then drew near Seniya Bimbisāra, king of Magadha, to where The Blessed One was; and having drawn near and greeted The Blessed One, he sat down respectfully at one side. And seated respectfully at one side, Seniya Bimbisāra, king of Magadha, spoke to The Blessed One as follows:

"Reverend Sir, it happened to me, as I was just now seated in seclusion and plunged in meditation, that a consideration presented itself to my mind, as follows: 'Here the heretical sect of wandering ascetics meet together on the fourteenth, fifteenth, and eighth day of the half-month, and recite their doctrine. And the people draw near to listen to their doctrine, and conceive a liking for the heretical sect of wandering ascetics, and put faith in them; and the heretical sect of wandering ascetics gain adherents. What if now the reverend ones also were to meet together on the fourteenth, fifteenth, and eighth day of the half-month?'"

Then The Blessed One enlightened, incited, quickened, and gladdened Seniya Bimbisāra, king of Magadha, with a doctrinal discourse. And Seniya Bimbisāra, king of Magadha, enlightened, incited, quickened, and gladdened by The Blessed One with a doctrinal discourse, rose from his seat and saluted The Blessed One; and keeping his right side toward him, he departed.

Then The Blessed One, on this occasion and in this connection, after he had delivered a doctrinal discourse, addressed the priests:

[404] "I prescribe, O priests, that ye meet together on the fourteenth, fifteenth, and eighth day of the half-month."

Now at that time the priests, having understood that The Blessed One had prescribed that they should meet together on the fourteenth, fifteenth, and eighth day of the half-month, met together on the fourteenth, fifteenth, and eighth day of the half-month, and sat in silence. And the people drew near to listen to the Doctrine, and were angered, annoyed, and spoke indignantly:

"How is it, pray, that the Sakyaputta monks, when they meet together on the fourteenth, fifteenth, and eighth day of the half-month, sit in silence like dumb hogs? Why should they meet together, if not to recite the Doctrine?"

And the priests heard that the people were angered, annoyed, and spoke indignantly. And the priests announced the matter to The Blessed One.

Then The Blessed One, on this occasion and in this connection, after he had delivered a doctrinal discourse, addressed the priests:

"I prescribe, O priests, that when ye have met together on the fourteenth, fifteenth, and eighth day of the half-month, ye recite the Doctrine."

Now it happened to The Blessed One, being in seclusion and plunged in meditation, that a consideration presented itself to his mind, as follows:

"What if now I prescribe that the priests recite a confession [pātimokkha] of all those precepts which have been laid down by me; and this shall be for them a fast-day duty?"

Then The Blessed One, in the evening of the day, rose from his meditation, and on this occasion and in this connection, after he had delivered a doctrinal discourse, addressed the priests:

"O priests, it happened to me, as I was just now seated in seclusion and plunged in meditation, that a consideration presented itself to my mind, as follows: 'What if now I prescribe that the priests recite a confession of all those precepts which have been laid down by me; and this shall be for them a fast-day duty?' I prescribe, O priests, [405] ye recite a confession. And after this manner, O priests, is it to be recited:

"Let a learned and competent priest make announcement to the congregation, saying, 'Let the reverend congregation hear me. To-day is the fast-day of the fifteenth day of the half-month. If the congregation be ready, let the congregation keep fast-day, and recite the confession. What is the first business before the congregation? Venerable sirs, the proclaiming of your innocency. I will recite the confession. and let as many of us as are here present listen carefully and pay strict attention. If anyone have sinned, let him reveal the fact; if he have not sinned, let him remain silent; by your silence I shall know that your reverences are innocent. But now, in assemblages like this, proclamation is made up to the third time, and each one must make confession as if individually asked. But if, when proclamation up to the third time has been made, any priest shall remember a sin and not reveal it, it will be a conscious falsehood. But a conscious falsehood, reverend sirs, has been declared by The Blessed One to be a deadly sin. Therefore, if a priest remember having committed a sin, and desire again to be pure, let him reveal the sin he committed, and when it has been revealed, it shall be well for him.'"

 

Ī 83b. The Buddhist Confession of Priests

Reprinted from a paper, by J. F. Dickson, M. A., in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society for 1875

On the 2nd of January, 1874, being the full-moon day of the month Phussa, I was permitted, by the kindness of my friend Kaewitiyāgala Unnānsē, to be present at a chapter of priests assembled for the recitation of the Pātimokkha or office of the confession of priests. The chapter was held in the Sīmā or consecrated space in the ancient Lohapāsāda, or Brazen Palace, in the city of Anurādhapura, and under the shadow of the sacred Bo-tree, grown from a branch of the tree at Buddha Gayā, under which, as tradition relates, the prince Siddhārtha attained to supreme Buddhahood. The branch was sent to Devānampiyatissa, King of Ceylon, by the Emperor Asoka, in the year 288 B. C., now upwards of [406] two thousand years ago. It was in this remarkable spot, under the shadow of the oldest historical tree, and in probably the oldest chapter-house in the world, that it was my good fortune to be present at this service. The building has none of its original magnificence. The colossal stone pillars alone remain as a memorial of the devotion of the kings and people of Ceylon to the religion which was taught them by Mahendra, the great apostle of Buddhism. In place of the nine storeys which these pillars once supported, a few in the centre are now made to carry a poor thatched roof no larger than that of a cotter's hut, and hardly sufficient to protect the chapter from the inclemencies of the weather. Still there was a simple and imposing grandeur in the scene. At the back of some dozen or more of these gigantic pillars were stretched pieces of white calico, to form the sides of the room: the ceiling in like manner was formed by stretching white calico above the pillars to conceal the shabby roof, the bare ground was covered with clean mats, two lamps gave a dim light, the huge columns, grey with age, stood out against the white calico. At the top of the long room thus formed was hung a curtain of bright colors, and through a space left for the entrance were visible, row after row, the pillars of the ancient palace, their broad shadows contrasting with the silvery brightness of the tropical moon.

Accompanied by a friend, I went to the chapter-house about seven o'clock in the evening; we were met at the door by the priests, who showed us to the places prepared for us -- two cushions on the floor at the bottom of the room, at a distance of about two fathoms from the place reserved for the priests. The ordinances of Buddha require that all persons who are not ordained priests, free at the time from all liability to ecclesiastical censure, shall keep at a distance of two and a half cubits from the assembled chapter. It was on my pointing out that this was the only direction of Buddha on the subject, that the priests consented to make an exception in my favor, and to break their rule of meeting in secret conclave.

After we were seated the priests retired two and two together, each pair knelt down face-to-face and made confession [407] of their faults, one to another, in whispers. Their confessions being ended, they took their seats on mats covered with white calico, in two rows facing each other. The senior priest, the seniority being reckoned from the date of ordination, sat at the head of one row, the next in order at the head of the opposite row, the third next to the senior priest, and so on right and left down the room. The senior priest remained sitting, the others knelt and made obeisance to him, saying --

Permit me. Lord, give me absolution from all my faults committed in deed, or word, or thought.

The senior then says --

I absolve you, brother. It is good to grant me absolution. All reply -- Permit me. Lord, I absolve you.

The second in order of seniority now resumes his seat, and all his juniors kneel and receive and give absolution, saying, Permit me, etc., as above; he then takes his seat, and the others kneel to him, and so on, till no one has a junior present, that is to say, if there are thirty priests present, the senior will receive obeisance from the twenty-nine others together, the second from the twenty-eight, and so on down to the twenty-ninth, who will receive obeisance from one. After all are seated, they fall together on their knees and say --

Praise be to the blessed one, the holy one, the author of all truth. (This is said three times.)

We believe in the Blessed one, the holy one, the author of all truth, who has fully accomplished the eight kinds of supernatural knowledge and the fifteen holy practices, who came the good journey which led to the Buddhahood, who knows the universe, the unrivalled, who has made subject to him all mortal beings, whether in heaven or in earth, the Teacher of Gods and men, the blessed Buddha. Through life till I reach Nirvāna I will put my trust in Buddha.

I worship continually
The Buddhas of the ages that are past,
And the Buddhas of the ages that are yet to come,
And the Buddhas of this present age.

[408]

I have no other Refuge,
Buddha is the best Refuge;
By the truth of these words
May I conquer and win the victory.
I bow my head to the ground, and worship
The sacred dust of his holy feet.
If in aught I have sinned against Buddha,
May Buddha forgive me my sin.

The Law was graciously preached by Buddha, its effects are immediate, it is unlimited by time, it is conducive to salvation, it invites all comers, it is a fitting object of contemplation, the wise ponder it in their hearts. Through life till I reach Nirvāna I will put my trust in the Law.

The Law as it has been in the ages that are past,
The Law that will be in the ages that are yet to come,
The Law as it is in this present age,
I worship continually.
 
I have no other Refuge,
The Law is my best Refuge;
By the truth of these words
May I conquer and win the victory.
 
I bow my head to the ground and worship
The Law, the noble doctrine of the Three Baskets.
If in aught I have sinned against the Law,
May the Law forgive me my sin.

Buddha's holy Church, the congregation of righteous men that lead a godly life, that walk in the straight way, in the way of wisdom, that walk faithfully in the four paths of holiness, the eight orders of the elect, worthy of offerings from afar, worthy of fresh offerings, worthy of offerings of the daily necessaries of life, entitled to receive the respectful salutation of joined hands raised in homage to the forehead, this holy Church produces merit which, like unto a rich field, yields its increase for the benefit of this world of men.

[409]

Through life till I reach Nirvāna I will put my trust in the Church.

The Church as it has been in the ages that are past,
The Church as it will be in the ages that are yet to come,
The Church as it is in this present age,
I worship continually.
 
I have no other Refuge,
The Church is my noble Refuge
By the truth of these words
May I worship and win the victory.
 
I bow my head to the ground and worship
The Church, threefold and best.
If in aught I have sinned against the Church,
May the Church forgive me my sin.
 
Buddha and the Law, the Pacceka-Buddhas,
And the Church are my lords.
I am their slave.
May their virtues ever rest on my head.
 
The three refuges, the three symbols and equanimity,
And lastly, Nirvāna,
Will I worship with bowed head, unceasingly.
Thus shall I receive the benefit of that threefold power.
 
May the three refuges rest on my head,
On my head may there rest the three symbols.
May peace rest on my head,
May Nirvāna rest on my head.
 
I worship the Buddhas, the all-pitiful,
The Law, the Pacceka-Buddhas;
The Church and the three sages
I worship with bowed head.
 
I worship every saying
And every word of the Great Teacher.
I worship every shrine,
My spiritual superior and my tutor.
By virtue of these feelings of reverence
May my thoughts be freed from sin.

[410]

The priests here rise from their knees and resume their seats. The senior, or some other deputed in his stead to officiate, then takes a seat at the top between the two rows. The interrogatories are then proceeded with as will be found explained in the following translation of the Pātimokkha. The interrogatories being ended, the Pātimokkha is intoned after the manner followed to this day by the Roman Church.


The office for priestesses . . . has been omitted in the present edition, because the order of priestesses is not now recognized by the orthodox Buddhists.

The text of this edition is derived from MSS. in use at the Malwattê Monastery in Kandy, and it will be found divided into ten chapters, as follows: --

I. Interrogatories relating to the requisites for forming a chapter.
II. The Introduction.
III. The four deadly sins.
IV. The thirteen faults involving temporary separation from the priesthood.
V. The two undetermined offences.
VI. The thirty faults requiring confession and absolution, and involving forfeiture of the article in reference to which the offence has been committed.
VII. The ninety-two faults requiring confession and absolution.
VIII. Four offences requiring confession.
IX. The seventy-five rules of conduct.
X. The seven rules for settling cases.

The whole is sometimes known as the two hundred and twenty-seven precepts.

J. F. D.
HARMONDSWORTH, SLOUGH, March 19th, 1875.

 


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