Ancient Bhikkhunī Uppalavaṇṇā being in the forest alone

I recently came across a rule that might counter what Ajahn Sujato claims. It is not easy to “follow” Ajahn Sujato’s writings…
He and his bhikkhunī followers try to discredit this rule. It is annoying because a bhikkhuni cannot travel or sleep alone . Alone means without another bhikkhunī present. I also agree it is very strict. But I also agree that it is better to be a Sayalay if you want freedom.

691. "yā pana bhikkhunī ekā vā gāmantaraṃ gaccheyya, ekā vā nadīpāraṃ gaccheyya, ekā vā rattiṃ vippavaseyya, ekā vā gaṇamhā ohīyeyya, ayampi bhikkhunī paṭhamāpattikaṃ dhammaṃ āpannā nissāraṇīyaṃ saṅghādisesa"nti.

In any case… This is what Ajahn Sujato says. It is confusing to read. I’m not sure where or what he references either.

The Bhikkhunī Saṁyutta, which consists of 10 short suttas involving bhikkhunis, throughout depicts bhikkhunis dwelling in the solitude of the forest. Each sutta depicts the bhikkhuni walking for alms in Sāvatthī, returning for the day’s meditation at the ‘Blind Man’s Grove’. It seems clear enough that they are alone, both when going for alms and entering the forest. In certain cases this is confirmed: Āḷavikā is said to be seeking seclusion (vivekatthinī);37 Kisāgotamī is taunted for being ‘alone in the woods’ (vanamajjhagatā ekā);38 Uppalavaṇṇā is teased while ‘standing alone at the root of a sāla tree’ (ekā tuvaṁ tiṭṭhasi sālamūle).39 This evidence is very weighty, for this Saṁyutta is one of the few major early collections of literature concerning the bhikkhunis, and in fact constitutes the major document concerning the bhikkhunis within the four Nikāyas/Āgamas. No doubt these examples could be multiplied by a more thorough sampling of the literature. But the quantity is already enough to raise a serious question mark over the meaning of the rule.

I was reading a vinaya rule that we covered in class and then I remembered some writing about Bhikkhunī Uppalavaṇṇā similar as above or in the totally bias writing on wikipedia that reference a self written doc file as a “source”. In any case.

Ajahn Sujato and the writers of the wikipedia page are trying negate and disqualify the rule . This is a serious rule called Saṅghadisesa. If one breaks this rule as a bhikkhunī, one needs to lose one’s status as a fully ordained nun and undergo probation for 15 days. Furthermore, 40+ monastics (20+ bhikkhus and 20+ bhikkhnis) are required to reinstate the full status. (bhikkhus have only 6 nights and only require 20+ monks, but there is a bonus period that can extend probation periods for years. Bhikkhunis do not have that extension possibility).

So I was reading cīvarapaṭiggahaṇasikkhāpadaṃ pārājika pāḷi mmpara_508
Below it shows that bhikkhunī uppalavaṇṇā went for alms in sāvatthi and then after her meal (pacchābhattaṃ) she went into the forest (andavanaṃ) for a day’s abiding (divāvihārāya… in meditation).

  1. tena samayena buddho bhagavā rājagahe viharati veḷuvane kalandakanivāpe. tena kho pana samayena uppalavaṇṇā bhikkhunī sāvatthiyaṃ viharati. atha kho uppalavaṇṇā bhikkhunī pubbaṇhasamayaṃ nivāsetvā pattacīvaramādāya sāvatthiṃ piṇḍāya pāvisi. sāvatthiyaṃ piṇḍāya caritvā pacchābhattaṃ piṇḍapātappaṭikkantā yena andhavanaṃ tenupasaṅkami divāvihārāya.

I remembered what I read from the bhikkhunī supporters and I too was wondering about bhikkhunī uppalavaṇṇā being alone so I looked in the commentary.

  1. tena samayenāti cīvarapaṭiggahaṇasikkhāpadaṃ. tattha piṇḍapātapaṭikkantāti piṇḍapātato paṭikkantā. yena andhavanaṃ tenupasaṅkamīti apaññatte sikkhāpade yena andhavanaṃ tenupasaṅkami.

This means that a rule (sikkāpada) was not yet regulated apaññatte sikkhāpade by the Buddha. But just to be sure, I looked up the ṭika.

  1. pañcame apaññatte sikkhāpadeti gaṇamhā ohīyanasikkhāpade apaññatte.

Here you will see that it is referring to the saṅghadisesa rule about “falling behind” while traveling although another name now. This is found in Pācittiya pāḷi

  1. "yā pana bhikkhunī ekā vā gāmantaraṃ gaccheyya, ekā vā nadīpāraṃ gaccheyya, ekā vā rattiṃ vippavaseyya, ekā vā gaṇamhā ohīyeyya, ayampi bhikkhunī paṭhamāpattikaṃ dhammaṃ āpannā nissāraṇīyaṃ saṅghādisesa"nti.


It is my understanding that the commentary and ṭika make very good observations and clear and detailed explanations. The rules were not made all at one time. They were made as needed. In fact, uppalavaṇṇa was indeed raped during a later time and that is part of the reason why we have strong rules for bhikkhunis. It also seems that EBT seems to leave out commentaries. I wonder if they have them and what they say? EBT also mostly comes from the Chinese language which was translated from Sanskrit from Pāḷi, and was likely transmitted by a heretical group found in the Kathāvatthu. It is not reliable. If it looks like the pāḷi texts are different, that is because it was EBT was translated 3 times. It was translated each time, by a group most likely mentioned in the Kathā vatthu for having wrong views.

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