English Books on Vinaya

From Wikivinaya


English translations of the Vinaya Pitaka

PTS edition (1938 - 1966)

These books are available in print only. They are the most recent translations of the whole Vinaya Pitaka.

The Book of the Discipline, translated by I.B. Horner (6 volumes; London: Pali Text Society, 1938, 1940, 1942, 1951, 1952, 1966)

'The Sacred Books of the East' series edition (1881 - 1885)

Being a pioneering effort to translate the Vinaya Pitaka to English, the 'Sacred Books of the East' are understandably translated imperfectly. (A later attempt by IB Horner, Book of the Discipline, is an improvement over this, though admittedly still "an interim translation".) However, this is probably the biggest chunk of such a translation available in the Internet.

Part I (The Sacred Books of the East Vol. 13): The Pâtimokkha & The Mahâvagga, I-IV. - translated by TW Rhys Davids and Hermann Oldenberg (Oxford, the Clarendon Press; 1881)

Part II (The Sacred Books of the East Vol. 17): The Mahavagga, V-X, the Cullavagga I-II. - translated by TW Rhys Davids and Hermann Oldenberg (Oxford, the Clarendon Press; 1882)

Part III (The Sacred Books of the East Vol. 20): The Cullavagga, IV-XII. - translated by TW Rhys Davids and Hermann Oldenberg (Oxford, the Clarendon Press; 1885)

'Buddhist Monastic Discipline - Theravada Bhikkhu Patimokkha' by Acharya Buddharakkhita

The major interest in this book is that, besides the patimokkha, it also contains all the origin-stories (or background stories) to the rules, translated into English. These stories give information on how the rule came to be laid down by Buddha. Some comments by the authors have been included into the actual translation, without stating that these comments do not come from the Vinaya Pitaka.

The book is published by Buddha Vachano Trust (address: 14 Kalidassa Road, Gandhinagar, Bangalore 56009, India). First Edition, 2004. Price 150 Rupies.

Vinaya handbooks

Vinaya Mukha

The Vinaya Mukha is composed of three parts, and translated (by Paul Breiter) from Thai into English in the 1970's. It was the first Vinaya manual available in the English language in Thailand. It is only available in print.

Vinaya Notes by Ajahn Brahmavamso

This Vinaya manual by Venerable Ajahn Brahmavamso (Bodinyana monastery, Perth, Australia) is most commonly available as a bundled set of photocopies of the original, handwritten, document. It was written for use in the Buddhist Monasteries of the Ajahn Chah Tradition, and is possibly not very well known otside of those monasteries. The Vinaya Notes of Ajahn Brahmavamso are comparable to Thanissaro bhikkhu's Buddhist Monastic Code, which was partly based on Ajahn Brahmavamso's Vinaya Notes.

The manual has been transcribed to computer-version also, but is not available on the internet. The computer-version differs on some points from the paper version, and it is not clear if these changes are supported by Ajahn brahmavamso.

It should be noted that Ajahn Brahmavamso has changed his stance on a number of issues since composing the document. Also a new version is slowly being worked on by him.

The Heritage of the Sangha

This Vinaya manual, by Venerable Ajahn Thiradhammo, is written for use within the monastic tradition of Ajahn Chah, and it is not readily available outside those monasteries. It is different in setup from the Buddhist Monastic Code I and Ajahn Brahmavamso's Vinaya Notes, in that it is arranged according to subject material, and is not arranged according to how the rules appear in the Patimokkha. This manual is more light and easy reading, and doesn't go into detail very much. It gives an overview of the rules that apply for monks per subject-area. Each chapter treats a different subject.

Buddhist Monastic Code I

The Buddhist Monastic Code, Volume I: The Patimokkha Training Rules Translated and Explained. Thanissaro Bhikkhu (1996; multi-part HTML book; 1.21MB/574pp.)

Discription from 'Access to Insight':This book is a concise contemporary commentary to the 227 Patimokkha training rules, which are the Suttavibhanga (the first major section of the Vinaya). These rules, which affect various aspects of the daily life of Bhikkhus (Buddhist monks), are presented here along of their "origin stories" and valuable commentary to monk-in-training master the fine points of monastic conduct. This book is now in widespread use at English-speaking Theravada world.

This is probably the most useful English reference of the Bhikkhu Patimokkha available now. Not only does it gather helpful information from the commentaries to clarify the rules, it also points out some popular misinterpretations by certain monastic communities. It also provides some examples of contemporary applications of the Vinaya.

However, it should also be noted that:

  1. For the Pali Canon and commentaries, the author has relied almost entirely on the editions published in Bangkok by Mahamakut Rajavidyalaya Press.
  2. The book also contains a fair deal of personal interpretations and opinions, which are not necessarily supported by the scriptures and many Vinayadharas. So keep a lookout for them. Some of these ideas cannot be proven wrong while some others can.
  3. So, readers are advised not to take this as a Vinaya "bible". Certain personal interpretations may appear to make sense at first, but do not stand up to closer scrutiny. So, do read it with a critical mind. Better still, study the actual Pali Vinaya scriptures themselves with the help of a good Vinaya and Pali teacher.
  4. Be that as it may, especially for those who don't have access to the Pali scriptures or have a good Vinaya teacher, it is still the best Patimokkha reference book an English-speaking monk can get. (Printed copies are available free of charge upon request.)
  5. For casual readers, this is too detailed and scholastic.

Buddhist Monastic Code II

The Buddhist Monastic Code, Volume II: The Khandhaka Rules Translated and Explained. Thanissaro Bhikkhu (2002; multi-part HTML book; 1.21MB/532pp.) Discription from 'Access to Insight': Whereas the Patimokkha concerns the basic rules of Theravada Buddhist monastic life, the Khandhaka (the second major section of the Vinaya Pitaka) concerns its customs, which are no less essential to monastic life. This landmark book organizes and explains the Khandhaka rules in a systematic and practical way, for the benefit of any Theravada monk-in-training.

  1. Having written a well-received book on the Patimokkha, the venerable author, to the delight of Vinaya-lovers, continued his good work on the Khandhakas. This volume goes hand-in-hand with the first, in that there is a great deal of cross-referencing between the two.
  2. For the most part, only the rules themselves are presented; no origin stories. I suppose the author foresaw that it is necessary to keep the book as compact as possible.
  3. The publication was somewhat rushed, and thus not well proofread.
  4. Most of the comments for the first volume (above) applies here too.

Other Books on Vinaya

General introduction:

Heart of Buddhism

Heart of Buddhism, by Bhikkhu Pesala.

Comment: A General introduction to Vinaya.

Banner of the Arahants

Banner of the Arahants: Buddhist Monks and Nuns from the Buddha's time till now. Bhikkhu Khantipalo (Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka; First Edition, 1979, multi-part HTML book) [from Pali Kanon website].

Extract (from Introduction): This book covers Vinaya in outline but with many interesting stories and examples, the history and development of the Sangha... (and) shows how this living tradition of enlightened Teachers comes down to the present day.

Books Aimed at Monastics:

The Ordination Procedure & Some Vinaya Rules

The Ordination Procedure & Some Vinaya Rules by Chammyay Sayadaw Ashin Janakabhivamsa (from Nibbana.com website)

This book was compiled for the purpose of facilitating ordination of foreigners in Chammyay meditation centers in Myanmar.


  • The ordination procedure naturally follows that of the Mahasi tradition — complete with the questionable request for the freeing of monastic duties between the new monk and his preceptor.
  • Among the "some Vinaya rules" presented (based on translations by Ven. Ñanamoli and Ven. Thanissaro) are all parajikas, sanghadisesas, sekhiyas, and a selection of other rules deemed "likely to be violated nowadays". The aniyatas and adhikarana-samathas are left out. In some cases, the definitions of words in the rules are integrated into the wording of the rule itself.
  • Some useful information on common vinayakammas are also included.
  • Any mistakes? A few here and there.
  • It's good as a quick & handy guide to the Vinaya for new monks, but far from adequate for an earnest understanding.

Abridged Vinaya for Temporary Monks

Abridged Vinaya for temporary monks. Based on instructions issued by the Most Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw, Mahasi Meditation Centre; translation by U Hla Kyaing. This book is not available in the web any more.

Comments: This seems to be written in a similar line of thought as the one above (The Ordination Procedure & Some Vinaya Rules). In comparison, it does not cover as many Vinaya points, but has some unique information.

Bhikkhunipatimokkha in English

Bhikkhunipatimokkha in English, translated by Thanissaro bhikkhu.

The Bhikkhuni Patimokkha of the Six Schools

The Bhikkhuni Patimokkha of the Six Schools, by Chatsumarn Kabilsingh (Bangkok: Thammasat University, 1991).

A comparative look at the nuns' Patimokkha rules in six Buddhist schools.

A Life Free From Money

A Life Free from Money: Information about the Money Rule for Buddhist Monks and Nuns. Dhamminda Bhikkhu (48KB)

Written for bhikkhus (newly ordained ones in particular) who have questions about the Vinaya rules related to money. Materials are largely gathered from the Vinaya Pitaka and its commentaries to help bhikkhus to understand how to keep the rules. [eVinaya]

Comments: It has everything that a bhikkhu need to learn from the texts regarding rules related to money. Some notable comments from the book:

  • the argument that "rules prohibiting money are not lesser or minor rules", and
  • the conclusion: "The rules concerning money are complex to explain but not difficult to practise; all a bhikkhu needs to do is to refuse to accept money."

Books Aimed at Laypeople:

Discipline and Conventions

Discipline and Conventions of Theravada Buddhist Renunciate Communities: A Guide for the Western Sangha, from the English Forest Sangha.

From the introduction: This guide is aimed at providing an introduction to some aspects of monastic discipline for those lay people who are interested in understanding something of the background to the rules and conventions which structure the way of life of the monks and nuns of this tradition.

The Bhikkhus' Rules -- A Guide for Laypeople

The Bhikkhus' Rules -- A Guide for Laypeople: The Theravadin Buddhist Monk's Rules Compiled and Explained. Bhikkhu Ariyesako (1999; multi-part HTML book; 364k/122pp.)

The book provides a very readable summary of the bhikkhus' (monks') rules, with a particular emphasis on giving laypeople a better understanding of the monks' way of life. Included also are questions-and-answers concerning the proper etiquette for laypeople when in the company of monks (how and when to bow, how to offer food or other requisites, etc.), examples of the particular customs and rules of etiquette that apply at specific Theravada monasteries, and a wealth of other valuable information. [Access To Insight]


  1. As the title of the book suggests, it is meant for lay knowledge. Nonetheless, as it is somewhat arranged according to subject matter, it also serves monks well as a quick reference on Vinaya rules that are connected with lay people.
  2. Instead of a scholastic research, the author compiled writings by a selection of modern English Vinaya literature. As such when it comes to variant interpretations, the author usually presents all of them (though some may be wrong or questionable) without passing his own judgment.
  3. It, nonetheless, has a slight Thai Dhammayutta bent. Readers are advised to look out for words like "many teachers instruct..." or "some communities consider...". Such phrases precede views that are not accepted by all Vinayadharas, and often not supported by the Pali scriptures.
  4. A fairly adequate book for lay people wishing to understand more about the Vinaya in order to relate better with conscientious monks.


Pali Dictionary of Proper Names

Buddhist Dictionary of Pali Proper Names - contains entires on Vinaya also.

The Pali Text Society's Pali-English dictionary

The Pali Text Society's Pali-English dictionary.

Dictionary of Early Buddhist Monastic Terms

Dictionary of Early Buddhist Monastic Terms (based on Pali Literature), Professor C.S. Upasak (Vanarasi: Bharati Prakashan, 1975)

This book is only available in print.

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