The origin of the pātimokkha; why and how it was established.
During the first twenty years after Buddha's enlightenment, there were only found authentic monastics endowed with a pure behaviour. No major fault was committed. Therefore, it was not necessary to establish restrictions concerning these faults. If a doctor prematurely operates on someone before an infection appears, the patient will be rather unhappy. Whereas if he operates on an infected wound, the patient will be rather thankful and grateful to the former. In the same way, only when faults gradually arose, when they were gradually committed, did Buddha accordingly define the prohibitions and the restrictions.
From those times on, by pointing out what is beneficial and what is not, Buddha started to admonish faults: "Do not do this, do not commit such acts, if you allow yourself to commit such faults, it will entail such consequence". In this way, he progressively established the rules of the vinaya conduct.
Although they are exclusively meant for bhikkhus, more rules of the pātimokkha were established concerning the relationships of the monks with the laity than directly meant expressly for the bhikkhus. These rules are obviously designed for providing the bhikkhus with a framework that best fits the practice of renunciation and the training into concentration, and also for encouraging them to maintain a perfect conduct while facing all kinds of situations. In the dhamma, moral discipline is the pillar of all practices, of all actions. Within some authoritative commentaries, it is mentioned:
"The totality of the rules of conduct of vinaya is the condition of life in Buddha's teachings".
Those rules of conduct are very numerous. By summarising them in a concise shape, synthesising the main points, we do obtain 227 rules, which constitute the "contents" of the vinaya. The collection of these 227 rules constitutes that which in Pali is called the pātimokkha.
See also: Other faults
Origin: Texts wrote for this Wesbite and a book about the monastic discipline
Author: Monk Dhamma Sāmi
Translator: Lucy Costa
Date of translation: 2002
Update: 2005, June the 27th