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Prātimokṣa (P. pāṭimokkha; T. so sor thar pa སོ་སོར་ཐར་པ་; C. boluotimucha) refers to the code of conduct for monks (bhikkhus) and nuns (bhikkhunis) that is found in the Vinaya Pitaka. Prāti means "towards" and mokṣa means "liberation" from cyclic existence (saṃsāra).

It became customary to recite these rules once a fortnight at a meeting of the sangha during which confession would traditionally take place.


Different versions of the Prātimokṣa texts are included with the Vinaya Pitakas of each of the major Buddhist Canons.

A number of prātimokṣa codes are extant, including those contained in the Theravāda, Mahāsāṃghika, Mahīśāsaka, Dharmaguptaka, Sarvāstivāda and Mūlasarvāstivāda vinayas.[1] Prātimokṣa texts may also circulate in separate prātimokṣa sūtras, which are extracts from their respective vinayas.

Prātimokṣa in Buddhist traditions

Early Indian Schools

Each of the Early Buddhist Schools had their own versions of the Vinaya Pitaka; hence there were different versions of the Prātimokṣa among the early schools.

Theravada Buddhism

The Pāṭimokkha of the Pali Canon is followed by the monastics of the Theravada lineage. It consists of 227 rules for fully ordained monks (bhikkhus) and 311 for nuns (bhikkhunis). The Patimokkha is contained in the Suttavibhanga, a division of the Pali Vinaya Pitaka.

East Asian Buddhism

Buddhist traditions in East Asia typically follow the Dharmaguptaka vinaya lineage of the prātimokṣa, and this is standard for the following Buddhist traditions:

Some traditions of Buddhism in Japan also carry out full monastic ordination, but most do not. Instead, these traditions of Japanese Buddhism have priests who take Bodhisattva vows but not full monastic vows (i.e. prātimokṣa).

Tibetan Buddhism

The prātimokṣa of the Mulasarvastivada lineage followed in Tibetan Buddhism is taken for life unless one or more of the four root vows are broken. In Tibetan Buddhism, there are eight types of Prātimokṣa vows:

Vows for laity

The lay prātimokṣa consists of five vows that are also known as the Five Śīlas:

  1. To refrain from killing.
  2. To refrain from stealing.
  3. To refrain from false speech.
  4. To refrain from sexual misconduct.
  5. To refrain from using intoxicants.

One is not obliged to take all five vows. The commentaries describe seven types of lay followers:

  1. Promising to keep just one vow.
  2. Promising to keep certain vows.
  3. Promising to keep most of them.
  4. Promising to keep all five.
  5. Keeping all five and also promising to keep the pure conduct of avoiding sexual contact.
  6. Keeping all five, pure conduct, and wearing robes with the promise to behave like a monk or a nun.
  7. Lay follower of mere refuge. This person is unable to keep the vows but he promises to go for refuge to the triple gem until death.

Vows for monastics

  1. Novices' Vows (śrāmaṇera getsul; śrāmaṇerī, getsulma) — 36 vows
  2. Full Nun's Vows (bhikṣuni, gelongma) — 364 vows
  3. Full Monk's Vows (bhikṣu, gelong) — 253 vows

Only full monks and full nuns are seen as full members of the buddhist monastic order. A group of four fully ordained monastics is seen as a sangha. The prātimokṣa tells also how to purify faults, how to solve conflicts and deal with all kinds of situations which can happen in the sangha.

See also


Indian Buddhism

  • Prebish, Charles S. (1996). Buddhist monastic discipline : the Sanskrit Prātimoksạ Sūtras of the Mahāsāmg̣hikas and Mūlasarvāstivādins. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 81-208-1339-1. 

Tibetan Buddhism

  • Novice Vows: Lama Mipham's commentary to Nagarjunas "Stanzas for a Novice Monk" together with "Essence of the ocean of Vinaya" by Tsongkhapa ISBN 81-86470-15-8 (LTWA India)
  • Full Monk Vows: "Advice from Buddha Sahkyamuni" by HH the 14th Dalai Lama, ISBN 81-86470-07-7 (LTWA India)
  • Complete Explanation of the Pratimoksha, Bodhisattva and Vajrayana Vows: "Buddhist Ethics" (Treasury of Knowledge: Book Five), Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye, ISBN 1-55939-191-X, Snow Lion Publications
  • Monastic Rites by Geshe Jampa Thegchok, Wisdom Books, ISBN 0-86171-237-4
  • Ngari Panchen: Perfect Conduct: Ascertaining the Three Vows, Wisdom Publication, ISBN 0-86171-083-5 (Commentary on the three sets of vows by Dudjom Rinpoche)


  1. Keown, Damien. Dictionary of Buddhism. 2003. p. 220

External links

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