Nissāraṇīya: A Codified Term Updating the Development of the Pāli Vinaya, Part I

Juo-Hsüeh Shih


Nissāraṇīya is a term added to conclude the saṅghādisesa rules for nuns only in the Pāli Vinaya. It refers to a temporary expulsion of the guilty nun, yet this is beyond the penalty prescribed. A comparative study of the relevant passages in the other Vinayas attests to the controversy hinted at in the Sp. The Pāli Vinaya is alone in asserting the expulsion of the nun, whereas the other traditions are concerned with the nun’s release from her offence. The key to such controversy lies in orthographical variation: nissāraṇīya vs niḥsaraṇīya. Our study points to the assumption that the Vinaya may have borrowed a term from the Suttas to supplement the offence name saṅghādisesa. It was nissaraṇīyaṃ saṅghādisesaṃ in the Pātimokkha, which is confirmed by internal evidence from the Sp. Nissaraṇīya was later replaced by nissāraṇīya and its meaning and reference underwent a dramatic change. Moreover, nissāraṇīya then found its way back into the Suttas in which there is some confusion between nissaraṇīya and nissāraṇīya.

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