Parajika 2: Theft

If a monk takes from village or wilderness by what is reckoned as theft, something not given that is of such a nature that kings arresting a thief for such a theft would flog, imprison, or banish him, saying “You are a robber, you are a fool, you are stupid, you are a thief,” even so, a monk who takes something not given that is of such a nature is parajika, no longer in communion.

Yo pana bhikkhu gāmā vā araññā vā adinnaṃ theyyasaṅkhātaṃ ādiyeyya yathārūpe adinnādāne rājāno coraṃ gahetvā haneyyuṃ vā bandheyyuṃ vā pabbājeyyuṃ vā coro’si bālo’si mūḷho’si theno’sī'ti; tathārūpaṃ bhikkhu adinnaṃ ādiyamāno ayampi pārājiko hoti asaṃvāso.


When King Seniya Bimbisara became king, he proclaimed: “Let ascetics and brahmans enjoy gifts of grass, wood and water”, which he later explained to Venerable Dhaniya, the potter’s son, as follows: “There are, bhante, ascetics and brahmans who are modest, scrupulous, and anxious for training. There is little cause for concern with these. What was uttered by me was meant for these. What I meant was this: let those ascetics enjoy grass, wood and water that is in the jungle, not owned.”

The problem was that Venerable Dhaniya had used the king’s consecration speech to trick the overseer of the king’s woodyard into giving him wood laid aside for repairing the city. The king was disgusted with Venerable Dhaniya: “So you, bhante, think to steal wood not given, by this trick? Yet how could one like me flog, imprison or banish a recluse or brahman living in the kingdom? Go bhante. You are freed on account of your hair.”

Judging parajika: the two standards

While interviewing Venerable Dhaniya, the Buddha asked a former chief minister who had become a monk: “For stealing how much (kittakena) would King Seniya Bimbisara have a thief flogged, imprisoned or banished?” The former minister replied: “For a pada, Sublime One, or its equivalent, or more.” In spite of this reply, when the Buddha laid down the rule he made no mention of the pada. He said the monk’s offence should be judged by the severity of the sentence it would have attracted had the monk been a layperson, which we will call the ‘sentence standard’ – a standard which was as draconian as that in 17th-19th Century England.

Having laid down the rule in terms of the sentence standard, however, in the instruction for new ordainees the Buddha returned to the idea of using the pada as the standard of parajika. He said:

“When a monk is ordained he should not take by theft what has not been given, even if it is only a blade of grass. If a monk takes by theft something worth a pada, its equivalent or more, he becomes not an ascetic, not a son of the Sakyans. As a withered leaf, broken from its stalk could not become green again, even so a monk, having taken something worth a pada, its equivalent or more, becomes not an ascetic, not a son of the Sakyans. This is not to be done by you for the rest of your life” (Vin.1.96).

By this second standard, the offence should be judged by the magnitude of the theft, whether it was a pada or not, which we will call the ‘pada standard’.

Consequences of changing the standard

Once the rule had been established, it was impossible to reformulate it, because deletion of text in an oral tradition is not possible. The only way to re-establish the rule in terms of the pada standard was by working it into the word analysis. This was awkward because the word analysis had already been formulated, and supported the rule, confirming that the judgement for theft involved the sentence standard not the pada standard. This early version of the word analysis could not be deleted.

To change the definition to the pada standard involved defining phrases not already defined. The only words available were those too insignificant to have been already used i.e. yathārūpaṃ and tathārūpaṃ. These are adjectives to the noun adinnādāne and adinnaṃ, respectively; they are not nouns, as the Word Analysis suggests. So, whereas the rule says “something not given that is of such a nature (yathārūpaṃ) that kings arresting a thief for such a theft would flog, imprison, or banish him”, and “a monk who takes something not given that is of such a nature (tathārūpaṃ) is parajika” the Word Analysis, defines both yathārūpaṃ and tathārūpaṃ as nouns: “a pada, its equivalent or more”.

Word analysis

  • village (gāmo): can be even one, two, three or four houses; it can be inhabited or uninhabited; it can be enclosed or unenclosed; it can be just an ox-stall; or even a caravan of vehicles that has been stationary for over four months (ekakuṭikopi gāmo, dvikuṭikopi gāmo, tikuṭikopi gāmo, catukuṭikopi gāmo, samanussopi gāmo, amanussopi gāmo, parikkhittopi gāmo, aparikkhittopi gāmo, gonisādiniviṭṭhopi gāmo, yopi sattho atirekacatumāsaniviṭṭho sopi vuccati gāmo).
  • precincts of a village (gāmūpacāro): in an enclosed village, the distance from the town gate that an average man could throw a clod of earth. In an unenclosed village, the same distance from the precincts of the house/s (parikkhittassa gāmassa indakhīle ṭhitassa majjhimassa purisassa leḍḍupāto, aparikkhittassa gāmassa gharūpacāre ṭhitassa majjhimassa purisassa leḍḍupāto).
  • wilderness (araññaṃ): everything apart from villages and their precincts (nāma ṭhapetvā gāmañca gāmūpacārañca avasesaṃ araññaṃ nāma). [Wilderness, in the context of danger, however, is any rural area further than five hundred bow-lengths (a kilometre) from a village (Vin.3.263; Vin.4.183).].
  • something not given (adinnaṃ): what has not been given (yaṃ adinnaṃ), nor granted (anissaṭṭhaṃ), nor thrown away (apariccattaṃ), what is guarded (rakkhitaṃ), protected (gopitaṃ), cherished (mamāyitaṃ), what belongs to others (parapariggahitaṃ).
  • by what is reckoned as theft (theyyasaṅkhātanti): a thieving attitude (theyyacitto), a stealing attitude (avaharaṇacitto).
  • takes (ādiyeyyāti): takes (ādiyeyya), steals (hareyya), thieves (avahareyya), interrupts the mode of movement (iriyāpathaṃ vikopeyya), removes from a place (ṭhānā cāveyya), waits at a rendezvous (saṅketaṃ vītināmeyya) [i.e. as a member of a gang].
  • such a nature (yathārūpaṃ): a pada, its equivalent or more (pādaṃ vā pādārahaṃ vā atirekapādaṃ vā).
  • kings (rājāno): kings of the Earth, local kings, king’s deputies, subordinate chieftains, judges, chief ministers, moreover, those who administer maiming and torture are kings.
  • thief (coro): he who takes by means of theft anything having a value of five masakas, or more than five masakas, that has not been given (yo pañcamāsakaṃ vā atirekapañcamāsakaṃ vā agghanakaṃ adinnaṃ theyyasaṅkhātaṃ ādiyati).
  • flog (haneyyuṃ): flog by hand, foot, whip, cane or rod, or maim.
  • imprison (bandheyyuṃ): imprison by rope, fetters, chains; in a house, city, village or town; or guarded by men.
  • banish (pabbājeyyuṃ): banish from village, town, city, province or district.
  • you are a robber, you are a fool, you are stupid, you are a thief: this is censure.
  • such a nature (tathārūpaṃ): a pada, its equivalent or more (pādaṃ vā pādārahaṃ vā atirekapādaṃ vā).
  • takes (ādiyamānoti): takes, steals, thieves, interrupts the mode of movement, removes from a place, waits at a rendezvous.

The worth of the pada

The pada was a quarter of a kahapana (PED: see discussion under kākaṇikā).

  • A kahapana (four padas) would buy meat for a single monk’s meal (Vin.3.237).
  • A linen garment counts as “light cloth” (lahupāvuraṇa) and is meant for hot weather. Bhikkhunis should not ask for such a garment if it is over ten kahapanas (forty padas) (Vin.4.256).
  • A woollen garment counts as “heavy cloth” (garupāvuraṇa) and is meant for cold weather. Bhikkhunis should not ask for such a garment if it is over sixteen kahapanas (sixty-four padas). (Vin.4.255) (The rule defines the offence in terms of kaṃsu, which the Word Analysis says is worth four kahapanas).

The present price (Dec 2006) of these articles, according to web-advertising, is as follows:

  • A single portion of meat (3oz) is $1 US.
  • 3.5m² of linen (enough for a robe) is $16 US.
  • 3.5m² of woollen cloth is $36 US.

By this, a pada is worth between $0.25-0.40-0.56 US.

The illustrative stories (below) support this estimate by either stating or strongly suggesting that stealing the following would be a parajika offence: a sitting cloth, a headwrap (veṭhanaṃ), a portion of cooked rice or cake or sugarcane, a pillow, a single portion of gruel, a honeyball.

Illustrative stories showing the worth of the pada

There are 150 illustrative stories in Parajika Two, a full account of which is in Appendix 13. The stories show how the rule was understood and applied in the Buddha’s day. They confirm that the pada standard was the accepted way of judging parajika and that the pada was indeed of small value. The punishment standard is never referred to. Cases which clearly involve taking small-value objects, and in which monks are accused of theft, or accuse themselves, are as follows:

  • Case 41: At a distribution of cooked rice for the Sangha (saṅghassa odane bhājīyamāne), a monk claimed a portion for a non-existent monk. Verdict: pacittiya offence for lying, not theft.
    Comment: This shows that, in the Buddha’s day, stealing a single portion of cooked rice was considered parajika. A single portion of cooked rice was therefore, according to this rule, worth at least a pada. This seems roughly correct, because a single portion of meat was four padas (see above) (Vin.3.237).
  • Case 44: At a distribution of sugarcane (ucchumhi) for the Sangha, a monk claimed a portion for a non-existent monk. Verdict: pacittiya offence for lying, not theft.
    Comment: This shows that, in the Buddha’s day, stealing a single portion of sugarcane would be considered parajika. A single portion of sugarcane was therefore worth at least a pada.
  • Case 106: A monk saw a large round pot of ghee (sappikumbhiṃ), and consumed it bit by bit (thokaṃ thokaṃ paribhuñji). Verdict: dukkata.
    Comment: A ‘bit’ of ghee can be estimated, as follows. When a bhikkhuni was ill, a layperson brought her a kahapana of ghee from a shop i.e. four padas (Vin.4.248). Ghee is a seven-day medicine. Therefore it is likely that the ghee was meant to last several days. Because she was sick, the nun would likely take several 'bit-sized' portions a day (mixed with honey, perhaps). Therefore any 'bit' would be easily less than a pada. Therefore not parajika.
  • Case 145: The pupil of the nun Thullananda lied to a supporter that Thullananda wanted some three-ingredient rice gruel (ayyā icchati tekaṭulayāguṃ pātu’nti). When the supporter had cooked and offered it (pacāpetvā haritvā), the pupil ate it herself. Thullananda accused the pupil of a parajika offence. Verdict: pacittiya offence for lying to the supporter.
    Comment: Tekaṭulayāgu contains sesame seeds, husked rice and kidney beans. Venerable Ananda made some for the Buddha when he was sick (Vin 1.210). This story shows that stealing a single portion of this gruel was considered parajika. A single portion of three-ingredient rice gruel was therefore more than a pada].
  • Case 146: The pupil of the nun Thullananda lied to a supporter that Thullananda wanted to eat a honeyball (ayyā icchati madhugoḷakaṃ khāditu’nti). When the supporter had cooked and offered it (pacāpetvā haritvā), the pupil ate it herself. Thullananda accused the pupil of a parajika offence. Verdict: pacittiya offence for lying.
    Comment: Monks ate honeyballs and rice gruel in the morning before almsround (Vin.1.222). Therefore honeyballs were not a particularly special food. Therefore, the value of a honeyball that can be eaten by one nun at one sitting, is probably small.

The pada according to a 12th Century subcommentary

The Vimati-vinodani, composed 1500 years after the Buddha’s Parinibbana says the pada was equivalent to twenty rice-grains’ weight of gold. One white rice grain weighs approximately 0.02g (paddy rice is 0.03g; brown rice is 0.025g). A troy ounce is 31.1g. The price of gold from 1996 to 2006 fluctuated between $250 and $725; thus twenty white rice-grains’ weight of gold fluctuated between $3.20 and $9.30. These figures, together with the estimate of the pada mentioned above ($0.25-0.56 US) suggest that the Vimati-vinodani overestimated the pada by approximately 1100%!

Two important aspects of theft

The illustrative stories point to two important aspects of theft:

  • Firstly, when asked to resolve a possible offence of theft, the Buddha always asked the monk “kiṃ citto tvaṃ, bhikkhū”ti? What was your attitude or intention [when you took the goods]?
  • Secondly, the stories say that "pure sāmikā passantī'ti" (“before the owner sees”) is what thieves think while committing theft; this thought is equivalent to theyyasaṅkhātaṃ (thieving attitude), the key word mentioned in the word analysis. It shows that secrecy and hurriedness are the symptoms of a thieving attitude.

Pada standard and modern law

Stealing less than a pada: not a 'thief'

The word analysis says that by law, one is a thief, and called a thief by the king, only if one steals a pada or more (Vin.4.226; Vin.3.46-7): “You are a robber. . . you are a thief”, where 'thief' (coro) is defined in the word analysis as 'he who takes by means of theft anything having a value of five masakas, or more than five masakas, that has not been given' - and five masakas was equivalent to a pada (Vin.3.45).

If one stole less than a pada, by law one was not a ‘thief’, and for such acts of theft one may have received no punishment at all. It is safer to assume this is true, that one received no punishment for theft of under a pada, because it will lead us to a low estimate for the pada. If we assume it is untrue, that there was a punishment for theft of under a pada, it will lead to a higher estimate for the pada in the discussion below. This would obviously be more treacherous. Let us assume, therefore, that the pada marked the 'no punishment threshold'.

The 'no-punishment threshold': introduction

In the history of punishment, there has been a gradual softening of public attitudes to crime – see Appendix 12. It seems that the cruel sentences mentioned in Parajika 2 correspond nowadays to various milder counterparts. That is, flogging, banishment and imprisonment has given way to fines and community sentences. And even though price comparisons suggest the pada was worth $0.25-0.56 US, what the Buddha was apparently aiming at was the marker of the 'no-punishment threshold', which at that time was a pada. So, our search for the worth of the pada in strict financial terms may be better replaced by a search for the marker of the no-punishment threshold in modern legal systems, where one is not punished by any of the modern-day punishments, including fines and community service.

The no-punishment threshold in USA

Offences in USA are classified as felonies, misdemeanours and infractions. Sentencing for theft is broadly related to the amount stolen:

  • Stealing over $300 is a felony. Fined or imprisoned.
  • Stealing up to $300 is a misdemeanour. Usually fined.
  • Theft of less than $50 may be charged as an infraction if the defendant has no prior theft convictions. The fine for such an infraction may not exceed $250 (

Thus, there seems to be no theft too small to punish in the USA. So USA cannot be compared to King Bimbisara's Magadha.

Of course, in the USA, there may be an unofficial no-punishment threshold. This is certainly true in UK. Research in UK shows that only 3% of incidents of theft come to police attention, and that the most common reason cited by shopkeepers for not reporting an offence, was that it was considered too trivial to report (Crimes against retail and manufacturing premises: findings from the 2002 Commercial Victimisation Survey; 2005; Home Office online Report 37/05). The amount which shopkeepers call ‘trivial’ marks the unofficial no-punishment threshold. This research shows that a human sense of proportion may underlie the legal system even in the USA.

USA: attitude to theft

The stern attitude to theft in the USA could be illustrated by a recent case involving 29 year old Kenneth Payne who, had 10 previous convictions, including criminal mischief, assault, possession of a controlled substance, and theft - including the theft of a bag of Oreo cookies. In 2000, he was sentenced in to 16 years imprisonment for shoplifting a $1 Snickers bar.

Marc Mauer, assistant director of the Sentencing Project, a national non-profit organization that studies criminal justice said: "Our whole approach to the use of incarceration is completely out of proportion to any rational strategy for addressing the problem of crime. If one were to go to other democratic nations - Canada, Europe - I don't think you could find a single juror let alone a whole jury that would consider any jail time, let alone 16 years".

Robert Dawson, a University of Texas law professor said "It does say we're willing to spend an incredible amount of money on incredibly petty matters. It costs $14,000 a year to keep an inmate in prison in Texas, and over 16 years that comes out to about $800 a peanut. That seems a little high."

But assistant district attorney David Dobbs said "Eight years ago our office prosecuted a habitual criminal with 18 previous felony convictions, for stealing a brisket. He got a life sentence from a jury who was sick of it". He added that the jury could have ignored Mr. Payne's history of theft convictions "but we don't choose to do that here".

Similarly, Jack Skeen, the district attorney, felt it was "appropriate use of taxpayers' dollars when you're talking about keeping a habitual criminal off the streets". And he pointed out that the jury thought so, too. "Twelve people sat in there and heard the evidence. They felt the appropriate sentence was 16 years." He explained that Mr. Payne faced a maximum of 20 years' incarceration, but was offered a plea bargain (Dallas Morning News, April 6, 2000).

The no-punishment threshold in UK

In UK, crime is divided into ‘indictable offences’, which are tried by the Crown Court; ‘summary offenses’, which are tried in the Magistrates’ Court; and ‘either-way’ offences, which can be tried in either court. Theft is an either-way offence (Sentencing Guidelines Council 2005). However, apart from the courts, there are other ways of dealing with minor theft.

‘Simple cautions’ issued by the police are possible for first-time offenders. The Gravity Factors Matrix assists the decision-making process: the offence is initially allocated a number on a scale of seriousness from 1 to 4, and then aggravating factors (e.g. planned theft or theft above £200) and mitigating factors (e.g. personal need) are assessed to increase or decrease this by one level only. Theft up to £100 is category 2 (normally given a simple caution). Above that is category 3 (normally charged). Cautions are not repeated except with trivial offences or with long lapses between offences (Home Office Circular 30 / 2005: Cautioning Of Adult Offenders. Crown Prosecution Service: National Standards for Cautioning).

Therefore, for first-time offences, the no-punishment threshold is £100. For second offences, cautions are repeated for "trivial offences". So the no-punishment threshold for second offences is an amount more “trivial” than £100.

Aggravating and mitigating factors

So, in UK, in the years since the 17th Century, not only have punishments become less aggressive, the no-punishment threshold has risen. Therefore it may be inappropriate to use $0.25-0.56 US as the amount that marks the parajika/not-parajika threshold - because that was the marker used in ancient times in far-away lands. Times have changes.

Because Parajika 2 was deliberately formulated so it was pegged to a contemporary legal system, it seems appropriate for monks to take into account all the changes that have happened in law since that time. Not only has the overall no-punishment threshold risen, we must also remember that in individual cases the no-punishment threshold may rise further still - as we have seen with the Gravity Factors Matrix: "aggravating factors and mitigating factors are assessed to increase or decrease this by one level only". For first offenders, the no-offence threshold is surprisingly high. But in some cases, the threshold drops, for instance if there is violence or unlawful entry. Aggravating and mitigating factors are discussed in Appendix 2. The rigid scales of justice used in ancient times seem no longer appropriate, especially in UK. In the USA, if Vinaya overides local law, then acts of theft of under $0.25-0.56 US would not be parajika.

No-offence clause

Sources of the terms

The following terms of the no-offence clause are taken from the illustrative stories:

  • sasaññissa taking what one perceives as one’s own, no offence: cases 35, 61, 62.
  • vissāsaggāhe taking on trust (explained below), no offence: case 60.
  • tāvakālike taking temporarily, no offence: case 144.
  • tiracchānagatapariggahe taking what an animal has acquired, no offence: case 40.
  • paṃsukūlasaññissa taking what seems ownerless or thrown away, no offence: cases 63-69, 101, 103.
  • petapariggahe’ ('taking from a ghost') based on the illustrative story, case 33. Discussion below.

Usual four terms

There are also the usual four terms - explained in Appendix 16.

  • ummattakassa
  • khittacittassa
  • vedanāṭṭassa
  • ādikammikassāti).

Taking from a ghost: petapariggahe

The no-offence clause coins the word ‘petapariggahe’ ('taking from a ghost') based on the illustrative story, case 33, which is about a monk who took a cloak from a corpse in which a ghost (peta) was living. The ghost-inhabited corpse chased the monk, wanting its cloak back. How this story arose is unknown. There is no indication that the Buddha knew about it; he makes no reference to it. He merely explained that although monks may take clothing from a corpse, they must wait till the corpse is broken (by animals, perhaps). It would have been more helpful if the no-offence clause had said 'taking from a broken corpse' is no offence ('bhinne sarīre') rather than 'taking from a ghost' - which seems rather frivolous.

Terms excluded from the no-offence clause

  • atheyyacittassā'ti: taking with no thievish intent: case 99.
  • ajānantassā: smuggling unknowingly: case 89, 90.
  • kāruññādhippāyassā: releasing trapped animals, out of compassion: case 92, 94, 96.
  • gopakassa dāne: taking a gift from the guardian: cases 124-130.
  • paribhogatthāyā: taking fruit for the sake of eating it - difficult to explain: case 117-123.
  • iddhimassa iddhivisaye: taking by means of magical powers - difficult to explain: case 150.
  • cittuppāde: merely thinking to steal (cases 2, 6).
  • paṭisāmesi: tidying things away (case 26-30).
  • niruttipathe: mannerisms of speech, joking that one had stolen others' possessions (case 26-30).

The no-offence clause usually summarises the illustrative stories. So it is strange that in this rule so many terms have not been listed. It only seems justified in the cases which are awkward to explain, and which might easily be misunderstood. For instance, saying that "taking food for the sake of eating it" is no offence would likely lead to misunderstandings; as would saying things can be taken by magical powers. But for many words their non-inclusion is puzzling.

The rule elaboration

The rule elaboration repeats much of what has been said in the illustrative stories. It adds the following points:

  • immoveable objects, like land or buildings, are considered stolen when the monk successfully forces the owner to give up his claim to them, either by legal measures or by simple threat, or he moves a fence or boundary post.
  • stealing a tree is accomplished in chopping it down, rather than moving it - which some people may disagree with
  • a toothwood, a bowlful of water may apparently be worth a pada. From other sutta references, this seems unlikely.
  • stealing from a toll station (suṅkaghātaṃ): this is where a monk enters the toll station and steals the king's property. It is not an offence until the goods are carried two steps beyond the station (Vin.3.52). This not only contradicts case 25 of the illustrative stories, in which the Buddha said thievingly lifting goods from the ground (bhūmito aggahesi) was parajika; it even contradicts the rule elaborations' own statement on the theft of ‘burdens’ (bhāro) in which it says to lift a burden from the ground with a thieving attitude is parajika (theyyacitto bhumito gaṇhāti āpatti pārājikassa) (Vin.3.49).
  • evading toll-station tax (suṅkaṃ pariharati) is a dukkata offence i.e. sneaking past (Vin.3.52). This toll-station (suṅkaghātaṃ) is presumably not the same as the customs post (suṅkaṭṭhānaṃ) mentioned in the illustrative stories case 89-91. It is apparently a place established by the king in a mountain pass, or at a ford in a river, or at the gate of a village, where tax is made on people entering there (paviṭṭhassa suṅkaṃ gaṇhantu). Evading toll-station tax would not be a parajika offence - unlike evading customs-tax - because it is not smuggling. If this example means that monks were obliged to pay taxes, it would possibly date the authorship of the rule elaboration to the era of the Second Council, when the monks in Vesali were carrying money - see Appendix 6.
  • leading animals away is considered theft when each of their legs has lifted from the surface the animal is standing on. It is thus possible to steal a human being, and possible to steal a centipede by leading it away foot; the parajika offence occurs when its last foot has moved. Maybe this was meant as humour.
  • threefold division of offence according to amount stolen
    • stealing five masakas (= a pada: see Vin.3.45) and over is parajika;
    • stealing from one to under five masakas is a thullaccaya offence;
    • stealing one masaka is a dukkata offence.

But the Buddha described

  • stealing five masakas as parajika
  • stealing the equivalent of a 'bit' of ghee is a dukkata.
By the Buddha's model, there are two broad areas with an undefined area between them. But the rule elaboration puts sharp lines on this, as if one would know the price of goods, whether they were four or five masakas - thullaccaya or parajika. In the age of famines and wildly fluctuating economies, such clarity seems somewhat unlikely. The Buddha's model seems to better reflect the uncertainty that plagues the whole rule.

The cycle of permutations

The cycle of permutations is in two parts:

  • In the first part all permutations begin: "If a monk tells a monk..." (bhikkhu bhikkhuṃ āṇāpeti) and all describe different permutations of theft by proxy i.e. telling others to steal. This idea is a development of case 107 of the illustrative stories in which a group of monks arranged that one monk would steal goods (bhaṇḍaṃ) for them, thinking that the rest of the group would not be parajika. The Buddha said they were all parajika.
  • The second part has several noteworthy features:
    • all permutations begin: "Through appropriation involving five/six factors... " (pañcahākārehi/ chahi ākārehi adinnaṃ ādiyantassa...). Several points
    • it lists the factors that lead to different offences: taking property that does/does not belong to another, that is worth more/less than a pada, and which one touches/ moves/ removes - all of which look like an attempt to summarise the rule elaboration.
    • it copies certain phrases from the rule elaboration: pañcamāsako vā atirekapañcamāsako vā, atirekamāsako vā ūnapañcamāsako vā, māsako vā ūnamāsako vā.
    • it copies a sequence of words from the no-offence clause: na ca sakasaññī, na ca vissāsaggāhī, na ca tāvakālikaṃ (the no-offence clause has sasaññissa, vissāsaggāhe, tāvakālike).
    • it copies the word parapariggahitaṃ ('what belongs to others') from the word analysis in its definition of 'something not given'. Goods worth a pada or more it calls garuko; less than that it calls lahuko. These two words are unique to the cycle of permutations.

These points can be seen in the Pali extracts of Appendix 19.

Taking on trust

A bhikkhu may take another’s possession without asking for permission to do so if he ‘takes it on trust’ (vissāsaṃ gahetuṃ). This is not theft. There are five pre-requisite conditions for taking on trust:

  • the person is an acquaintance (sandiṭṭho: ‘seen together’);
  • the person is an intimate friend (sambhatto, from sambhajati: consort with, love, to be attached, devoted);
  • the person is someone who one greets or addresses (ālapito) – perhaps this means an acquaintanceship.
  • the person is alive (jīvati);
  • the bhikkhu knows that the person will be pleased if the possession is taken (jānāti ca gahite me attamano bhavissatīti).

Ālapito in the scriptures

Ālapito is sometimes explained as 'he has given permission'. But that translation would not accord with the concept of 'taking on trust', which implies that permission has not been given. If ālapito meant ‘he has given permission’, there would be no such thing as 'misconception of trust'. The following quotations show the word ālapito means ‘greet’ or ‘address’.

  • The Buddha told Venerable Ananda that bhikkhus should not set eyes on women, and if they did, they should not greet them; but if the monks were greeted [by women], they should arouse mindfulness (Kathaṃ mayaṃ bhante mātugāme paṭipajjāmā'ti? Adassanaṃ, ānandā'ti. Dassane bhagavā sati kathaṃ paṭipajjitabban'ti? Anālāpo ānandā”ti. Ālapantena pana bhante kathaṃ paṭipajjitabban'ti? Sati ānanda upaṭṭhāpetabbā'ti.) (D.2.143).
  • On their first meeting, the Buddha greeted Anathapindika by his private name (Ehi sudattā'ti. Atha kho anāthapiṇḍiko gahapati nāmena maṃ bhagavā ālapatī'ti) (S.1.212).
  • The brahman Manatthaddha decided not to greet the Buddha unless he greeted him (Sace maṃ samaṇo gotamo ālapissati, ahampi taṃ ālapissāmi.) (S.1.177).
  • “Hello there, my man!” is a form of greeting (ambho purisāti ālapanādhivacanametaṃ) (Vin.3.73).
  • Monks who are acquaintances and intimate friends might enter vassa together, and might decide to neither address one another nor converse (aññamaññaṃ neva ālapeyyāma na sallapeyyāma) (Vin.1.157) i.e. a vow of silence (mūgabbataṃ), though this was condemned by the Buddha (S.5.152 & Vin.1.159).

Stories illustrating ‘taking on trust’

  • Roja, the Mallan, was a layfriend (sahāyo) of Venerable Ananda. A linen cloth belonging to Roja, the Mallan was placed in Venerable Ananda’s hand. Venerable Ananda needed linen cloth. So the Buddha established the protocol concerning ‘taking on trust’ (Vin.1.297).
  • Two monks were companions (sahāyakā). One took food that was distributed to the other while the other was on almsround, thinking that his friend would not mind. When he found out, however, the other monk was displeased. The Buddha said taking his food was not theft, but ‘taking on trust’ (vissāsaggāhe) (Vin.3.60).
  • The Blessed One Kassapa’s chief supporter was a potter named Ghatikara. When the Blessed One Kassapa was living at Vebhalinga his hut leaked. He told the monks to see if there was grass at the potter Ghatikara’s house. They told him that the only grass was the thatch on the roof. The Blessed One Kassapa told the monks to remove the grass from the potter Ghatikara’s house, which they did. Then the potter Ghatikara’s parents asked the bhikkhus: “Who is removing the grass from the house?” “Sister, the hut of the Blessed One Kassapa is leaking.” “Take it Venerable Sirs, take it and bless you.” When the potter Ghatikara found out what had happened, he thought “It is a gain for me, it is a great gain for me that the Blessed One Kassapa, accomplished and fully enlightened, relies on me thus”. And the rapture and happiness stayed with him for a fortnight (M.2.52-54).

Copyright infringement and Vinaya

Up until now, no attempt has been made by the Sangha to grade copyright infringement in terms of a vinaya offence. The result has been that sometimes monks, having copied printed works, software or audio material, have later worried whether they might have committed a light or a heavy offence; they are unable to correctly distinguish the two. This muddling of offenses was criticized by the Buddha, and so some attempt to clarify the situation should be made. A discussion on this is found in Appendix 5.

Acts similar to theft

  • Use of a telephone results in a fee being charged to an account holder. Unauthorised use of a telephone, by adding to that fee, is an indirect theft from the account holder if done with a thieving attitude. The theft would occur the moment the fee is paid.
  • Filling in tax forms incorrectly is lying, not theft. It is a way of tricking the government, so it does not demand the correct amount of tax. This is therefore a pacittiya offence.
  • Currency exchange is a business transaction that is taxed by governments. Part of the money exchanged belongs to the government. Exchanging money illegally means not giving the government its own money. This is therefore theft by both parties involved in the transaction.
  • Importing and exporting goods are acts that may necessitate customs duty i.e. tax. Smuggling is tax evasion, which, if done with a thieving attitude, is theft.
  • Public transport is offered to customers in exchange for a fee. To travel without paying a fee is to withhold one’s own money. This is not theft, but disgraceful conduct.
  • ‘Snatching back’ in anger (see Nissaggiya Pacittiya 25) is not theft because it is not done with a thieving attitude. Ven. Upananda was not parajika because he considered the robe as rightfully his, having given it with an implicit condition that the other monk did not fulfil.

Management of Sangha Property

This is dealt with in a separate Appendix 15

Points for discussion

  • What is meant by moveable and immovable objects?
  • If a monk takes a new almsbowl from the store without permission, is he parajika?
  • What is the ‘pada standard’?
  • What is the ‘sentence standard’?
  • If one accepts the sentence standard, for what magnitude of theft is a monk parajika in UK and USA?
  • To take something on trust, what factors are necessary?
  • Can a monk take on trust a layman’s possessions?
  • If a monk thinks someone might not mind him taking on trust, may he do so?
  • If a monk needs a strip of leather, may he take the collar off the neighbour’s cat?
  • A monk uses the monastery telephone without permission. Is this theft?
  • A monk is offered a pirated CD. May he accept it?
  • A monk takes flags offered to one monastery and offers them to another. Is this an offence?
  • A monk takes a robe from the store. Is this theft?
  • A monk photocopies a Dhamma book. Is this theft?
  • A monk cheats on the monastery tax form. Is this theft?     |     © 2008, Bhante Varado     |     Install the Gentium font