Then the Venerable Upāli approached the Blessed One, having approached and having paid homage to the Blessed One he sat down at one side. Sitting at one side the Venerable Upāli said the Blessed One: “Dependent on how many reasons, venerable sir, has the Tathāgata laid down for his disciples the training rules that are recited in the Pātimokkha?”
“Dependent on ten reasons, Upāli, the Tathāgata has laid down for his disciples the training rules that are recited in the Pātimokkha.¹ What ten?
“Dependent on these ten reasons, Upāli, the Tathāgata has laid down for his disciples the training rules that are recited in the Pātimokkha.
1. This refers to the 227 rules that are recited every fortnight when the monks resident within the monastic boundary (sīma) assemble to confess their offences and reflect on their morality. Outside of the Pātimokkha rules there are many thousands of other minor rules to be observed, but only 227 are recited: 4 offences entailing defeat, 13 entailing a formal meeting of the community, 2 indeterminate offences, 30 involving expiation with forfeiture, 92 involving expiation, 4 to be confessed, 75 minor training rules, and 7 ways of settling disputes.
2. When the rule is laid down by the Tathāgata for whoever agrees to it, that leads to their welfare and happiness for a long time.
3. Evil-minded individuals means those without morality (dussīla), who commit offences with no sense of shame. Because the rule has been laid down, disciplinary action can be taken against them by the community.
4. Well-behaved monks delight in morality and respect the training rules. They live in comfort when evil-minded monks are controlled by the training rules. When a teacher is strict, and if disruptive pupils are excluded, the well-behaved pupils who like to study are more comfortable.
5. Elsewhere, I have translated the term “āsava” as “outflows.” They are sensuality (kāmāsava), becoming (bhavāsava), wrong-views (diṭṭhāsava), and ignorance (āvijjāsava). The Buddha laid down rules whenever an occasion arose, not beforehand. The first time that a monk (Sudinna) engaged in sexual intercourse he laid down a rule entailing defeat; the first time that a monk (Upananda) accepted money he laid down the rule requiring confession with forfeiture of the money. The monk who first committed any new offence was not guilty of an offence because the rule had not yet been laid down. In this context, it is the purity of the Buddhasāsana that gets corrupted by the commission of any offence for the first time, and like a ship that has sprung a leak, it has to be patched up to restore the integrity of the Saṅgha, and to prevent similar offences in the future.