Two: The Silk Chapter
Should any bhikkhu have a felt (blanket/rug) made of a mixture containing silk, it is to be forfeited and confessed.
Santhata, translated here as a felt blanket/rug, is a type of cloth described in the texts simply by its method of manufacture. Instead of being woven, it is made by strewing threads over a smooth surface, sprinkling them with a glue-like mixture made from boiled rice, using a roller to roll it smooth, and then repeating the process until the felt is thick and strong enough for one’s purposes. Although felt made like this has a number of uses, its major use in the time of the texts seems to have been as a small personal rug for sitting or lying down, or as a rough blanket for wearing around oneself when sick or cold. Blankets/rugs like this are still made and used in parts of India even today, and as the non-offense clauses to this and the following rules show, it is precisely to this type of blanket/rug that these rules apply.
There are three factors for the full offense here.
1) Object: a felt blanket/rug containing silk threads and intended for one’s own use.
2) Effort: One either makes it oneself, gets someone else to make it, finishes what others have left unfinished, or gets someone else to finish what one has left unfinished.
3) Result: One obtains it after it is finished (or finishes it, if one is making it oneself).
The Vibhaṅga does not mention intention or perception as mitigating factors here. Noting this fact, the Commentary concludes if one is making a felt blanket/rug, and silk threads happen to float in on the breeze and land in the felt, one commits an offense all the same. Perhaps the Commentary’s interpretation here is why bhikkhus no longer use felt rugs, for there is no way of knowing whether there are any stray silk filaments in them that would make them unsuitable for use.
The Vibhaṅga assigns a dukkaṭa for the effort of making a blanket/rug with silk mixed in it, or for having it made. Once it is obtained (or finished, if one is making it oneself), it is to be forfeited and the nissaggiya pācittiya offense confessed. The procedures for forfeiture, confession, and receiving the blanket/rug in return are the same as under the preceding rules on robe-cloth.
According to the Vibhaṅga, there is a dukkaṭa in making a blanket/rug with silk mixed in it for another’s use. If one obtains a blanket/rug with silk mixed in it made by another (§)—not at one’s instigation—then using it entails a dukkaṭa.
There is no offense in making felt with silk mixed in it to use as a canopy, a floor-covering, a wall screen, a mattress/cushion, or a kneeling mat. None of the texts discuss the issue, but there is apparently also no offense in getting such an item made.
Summary: Making a felt blanket/rug with silk mixed in it for one’s own use—or having it made—is a nissaggiya pācittiya offense.
* * *
Should any bhikkhu have a felt (blanket/rug) made of pure black wool, it is to be forfeited and confessed.
The origin story to this rule indicates that a pure black felt blanket/rug was considered stylish at that time, and thus inappropriate for a bhikkhu’s use. This is a recurrent theme throughout the Vinaya: that stylish, luxurious, or elegant articles are not in keeping with the bhikkhus’ way of life.
The Vibhaṅga notes that black wool here covers both wool that is naturally black and wool that has been dyed that color.
All other explanations for this training rule are the same as for the preceding rule, simply replacing “a felt blanket/rug made with silk mixed in it” with “a felt blanket made entirely of black wool.”
Summary: Making a felt blanket/rug entirely of black wool for one’s own use—or having it made—is a nissaggiya pācittiya offense.
* * *
When a bhikkhu is having a new felt (blanket/rug) made, two parts of pure black wool are to be incorporated, a third (part) of white, and a fourth of brown. If a bhikkhu should have a new felt (blanket/rug) made without incorporating two parts of pure black wool, a third of white, and a fourth of brown, it is to be forfeited and confessed.
This is a continuation of the preceding rule. Its purpose is to set the maximum amount of black wool a bhikkhu may include when making his felt blanket/rug or having it made for his own use. The Vibhaṅga gives precise amounts for how much black, white, and brown wool one should use in making the rug, but the Commentary says that these quantities are relative: As long as black wool constitutes no more than half the total amount of wool used, the bhikkhu making the rug commits no offense.
As in the preceding rules, the Vibhaṅga assigns a dukkaṭa for making, for another person’s use, a felt blanket/rug that is more than one-half black wool. If one obtains a felt blanket/rug that is more than one-half black wool made by another—not at one’s instigation—then using it entails a dukkaṭa as well (§).
There is no offense if the rug is one-quarter or more white wool and one-quarter or more brown wool, or if it is made entirely of white wool or of brown. There is also no offense in felt that is more than one-half black wool if one is making the felt—or having it made—for a canopy, a floor-covering, a wall screen, a mattress/cushion, or a kneeling mat.
Summary: Making a felt blanket/rug that is more than one-half black wool for one’s own use—or having it made—is a nissaggiya pācittiya offense.
* * *
When a bhikkhu has had a new felt (blanket/rug) made, he is to keep it for (at least) six years. If after less than six years he should have another new felt (blanket/rug) made, regardless of whether or not he has disposed of the first, then—unless he has been authorized by the bhikkhus—it is to be forfeited and confessed.
“Now at that time bhikkhus were (each) having a new felt blanket/rug made every year. They were constantly begging, constantly hinting, ‘Give wool. We need wool.’ People criticized and complained and spread it about, ‘How can these Sakyan-son monks have a new felt blanket/rug made every year?… The felt blanket/rugs we make for ourselves last five or six years, even though our children wet them and soil them, and they get chewed on by rats. But these Sakyan-son monks have a new felt blanket/rug made every year and are constantly begging, constantly hinting, ‘Give wool. We need wool.’”
There are three factors for the full offense here.
1) Object: a new felt blanket/rug for one’s own use.
2) Effort: (a) One either makes it oneself, gets someone else to make it, finishes what others have left unfinished, or gets someone else to finish what one has left unfinished (b) less than six years after one’s last one was made, (c) even though one has not been formally authorized by the bhikkhus to do so.
3) Result: One obtains the rug after it is finished (or finishes it, if one is making it oneself).
The texts are silent on the factor of perception here, which suggests that if a bhikkhu miscounts the passage of years—making a new rug when six years haven’t passed even though he thinks they have—he fulfills the factor of effort all the same.
According to the Vibhaṅga, there is a dukkaṭa in the effort of making the rug or having it made. When all three factors of the offense are fulfilled, the rug is to be forfeited and the nissaggiya pācittiya offense confessed. The procedures for forfeiture, confession, and receiving the blanket/rug in return are the same as under the preceding rules.
There is no offense if a bhikkhu makes a new felt blanket/rug (or, apparently, if he has one made) after six or more years have passed; if he makes one or has one made for another’s use; if, having obtained one made by (§) someone else—not at his instigation—he uses it; or if he makes felt to use as a canopy, a floor-covering, a wall screen, a mattress/cushion, or a kneeling mat.
Also, as the rule indicates, there is no offense if within less than six years he makes a felt blanket/rug for his own use after being authorized to do so by the bhikkhus. The Vibhaṅga explains this by saying that the Community, if it sees fit, may formally give this authorization—a transaction with one motion and one announcement (ñatti-dutiya-kamma —to a bhikkhu who is too ill to do without a new felt blanket/rug before his six years are up. This authorization is best explained by noting that there is no exemption under this rule for a bhikkhu whose felt rug/blanket is snatched away, lost, or destroyed. Had there been such an exemption, bhikkhus might have abused it by intentionally ridding themselves of their existing felt rug/blankets in order to get new ones. In the absence of such exemptions, if a bhikkhu’s rug/blanket is snatched away, lost, or destroyed, the Community—if they are satisfied that he did not intentionally lose it, destroy it, or put it in a place where it might easily get stolen—can give him the authorization to get a new one made.
Summary: Unless one has received authorization to do so from the Community, making a felt blanket/rug for one’s own use—or having it made—less than six years after one’s last one was made is a nissaggiya pācittiya offense.
* * *
When a bhikkhu is having a felt sitting rug made, a piece of old felt a sugata span (25 cm.) on each side is to be incorporated for the sake of discoloring it. If, without incorporating a piece of old felt a sugata span on each side, a bhikkhu should have a new felt sitting rug made, it is to be forfeited and confessed.
The full offense here has three factors:
1) Object: a felt sitting rug made without incorporating a piece of old felt a sugata span on each side and intended for one’s own use.
2) Effort: One either makes it oneself, gets someone else to make it, finishes what others have let unfinished, or gets someone else to finish what one has left unfinished.
3) Result: One obtains it after it is finished (or finishes it, if one is
making it oneself).
Object is the only factor requiring explanation here.
A sitting cloth—for protecting his robes from getting soiled by any place where he sits down, and for protecting any place where he sits down from being soiled by him—is one of the requisites a bhikkhu is allowed to have (Mv.VIII.16.1). In fact, if he goes without one for more than four months, he incurs a dukkaṭa (Cv.V.18). Pc 89 gives stipulations for its size and for the requirement that it should have at least one border piece.
There is some question as to whether the felt sitting rug described in this rule counts as a sitting cloth. The Commentary to Pc 89 says Yes, the Sub-commentary No. The Vibhaṅga’s definition for sitting cloth under that rule, however, states simply that it “has a border,” and because the felt sitting rug also “has a border,” it would seem to come under that definition, too. Thus the Commentary’s appears to be the correct position here.
The Commentary to Pc 89 describes the border piece of a felt sitting rug as follows: “Having made a felt rug, then on one end in an area of one sugata span, cutting it at two points, one makes three border pieces.” Whether these three pieces are to be left flapping or are to be sewn back together, it doesn’t say.
According to the Vibhaṅga, when one is making a felt sitting rug, one should take a piece of old felt—at least one span in diameter or one span square—and then either place it down in one part of the new felt as is, or else shred it up and scatter the pieces throughout the new felt. This, it says, will help to strengthen the new felt.
Old felt the Vibhaṅga defines as worn wrapped around oneself at least once: This is one of the few places indicating that felt was commonly used as a blanket. The Commentary rewords the Vibhaṅga’s definition, saying “sat on or lied down upon at least once,” which—at least in the days of the commentators—was the more common usage. The Commentary adds that, in addition to wanting to discolor the new felt sitting rug and make it stronger, one of the Buddha’s purposes in formulating this rule was to teach bhikkhus how to make good use of old, used requisites so as to maintain the good faith of those who donated them.
As with the previous rules, there is a dukkaṭa for the bhikkhu who makes a sitting rug—or has one made—that violates this rule, whether it is for his own use or for that of another; and a nissaggiya pācittiya offense when he obtains the rug thus made for his own use (or finishes it, if he is making it himself). The procedures for forfeiture, confession, and receiving the rug in return are the same as under the preceding rules.
There is no offense if, being unable to find a large enough piece of old felt to provide the one-span piece, one includes a smaller piece of old felt in the sitting rug; if, being unable to find any old felt at all, one does not include any old felt in the rug; if, having obtained a felt sitting rug made by (§) another without old felt—not at one’s instigation—one uses it; or if one is making a canopy, a floor-covering, a wall screen, a mattress/cushion, or a kneeling mat. It seems logical that there would also be no offense for the bhikkhu making a felt blanket that does not have any border pieces and that he is not planning to use for sitting, but for some reason none of the texts mention this point.
Summary: Making a felt sitting rug for one’s own use—or having it made—without incorporating a one-span piece of old felt is a nissaggiya pācittiya offense.
* * *
Should wool accrue to a bhikkhu as he is going on a journey, he may accept it if he so desires. Having accepted it, he may carry it by hand—there being no one else to carry it—three yojanas (48 km.=30 miles) at most. If he should carry it farther than that, even if there is no one else to carry it, it is to be forfeited and confessed.
“At that time wool accrued to a bhikkhu as he was on the road in the Kosalan districts, going to Sāvatthī. So, tying the wool into a bundle with his upper robe, he went along his way. People who saw him teased him, ‘How much did you pay for it, venerable sir? How much will the profit be?’”
There are three factors for an offense here: object, effort, and intention.
Wool, under this rule, refers to wool that has not been made into goods (§). The Commentary explains that wool here thus does not include woolen cloth, woolen felt, woolen yarn, or even raw wool tied up with a thread, although this last point is in contradiction to the origin story, where the bhikkhu carried his wool tied up with a robe.
The Commentary goes on to say, though, that wool here does refer to even small quantities of “unmade” wool, such as wool placed in the ear when one has an earache, or wrapped around scissors in their sheath to protect them from rusting, so a bhikkhu should be careful not to travel more than three yojanas with such items.
For wool to “accrue,” the Vibhaṅga states, means that one obtains it either from a Community, from a group, from relatives, from friends, from what has been thrown away, or from one’s own resources.
The wording of the rule seems to indicate that it applies to wool acquired only when one is on a journey. However, the non-offense clauses do not grant an exception for wool acquired under other circumstances, and from this fact the Sub-commentary concludes that this rule applies to wool acquired anywhere.
Effort includes not only carrying unmade wool more than three yojanas oneself, but also placing it in a bundle or vehicle belonging to someone else without his/her knowing about it, and then letting him/her take it more than three yojanas. Perception is not a mitigating factor here: If one travels more than three yojanas, even if one thinks one hasn’t, that fulfills this factor all the same.
The Vibhaṅga adds that if one has not traveled more than three yojanas with the wool but perceives that one has or is in doubt about the matter, the penalty is a dukkaṭa. Whether this penalty applies to carrying the wool further or to using it, none of the texts say. Arguing from the Commentary’s interpretation of a parallel passage under NP 1, this penalty would apply to using the wool.
The Vibhaṅga says that there is no offense for the bhikkhu who, after traveling three yojanas, cannot find a proper place to stay and so carries his wool further until finding a proper place. Thus the offense under this rule is only for a bhikkhu who carries wool past the three-yojana mark for motives other than looking for a place to stay.
In addition to the issue of intention just mentioned, the non-offense clauses say that there is no offense for the bhikkhu who carries wool three yojanas or less; for the bhikkhu traveling more than three yojanas who is carrying wool that he has received back after it was snatched away; for the bhikkhu traveling more than three yojanas who is carrying wool that he has received back after having forfeited it (in line with this rule, the Commentary implies); for the bhikkhu who carries the wool three yojanas and then carries it back; or for the bhikkhu who gets someone else to agree to carry the wool for him.
Summary: Carrying wool that has not been made into cloth or yarn for more than three yojanas is a nissaggiya pācittiya offense.
* * *
Should any bhikkhu have wool washed, dyed, or carded by a bhikkhunī unrelated to him, it is to be forfeited and confessed.
The reason behind this rule is expressed succinctly in the following conversation from the origin story:
“Then Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, bowed to him and stood to one side. As she was standing there, the Blessed One said to her, ‘I trust, Gotamī, that the bhikkhunīs remain heedful, ardent, and resolute?’
“‘From where, venerable sir, is there heedfulness among the bhikkhunīs? The masters—the group-of-six bhikkhus—keep having the bhikkhunīs wash, dye, and card wool. The bhikkhunīs, washing, dyeing, and carding wool, neglect… the training in heightened virtue, the training in heightened mind, and the training in heightened discernment.’”
Wool, here, as under the preceding rule, refers to wool that has not been made into cloth or yarn. Thus there is no offense for a bhikkhu who gets a bhikkhunī unrelated to him to wash woolen cloth or yarn that has not yet been used (see NP 4).
Otherwise, all the explanations for this training rule are identical with those for NP 4, except that here “beating” is replaced by “carding.”
Summary: Getting an unrelated bhikkhunī to wash, dye, or card wool that has not been made into cloth or yarn is a nissaggiya pācittiya offense.
* * *
Should any bhikkhu accept gold and silver, or have it accepted, or consent to its being deposited (near him), it is to be forfeited and confessed.
As mentioned under NP 10, one of the purposes of this rule is to relieve a bhikkhu of the burden of ownership that comes as the result of accepting gifts of money or having them accepted in one’s name. The discourses contain passages, though, indicating other purposes for this rule as well:
“For anyone for whom gold and silver are allowable, the five strings of sensuality are also allowable. For anyone for whom the five strings of sensuality are allowable, gold and silver are allowable (reading yassa pañca kāmaguṇā kappanti tassa-pi jātarūpa-rajataṁ kappati with the Thai edition). That you can unequivocally recognize as not the quality of a contemplative, not the quality of one of the Sakyan sons.”—SN 42:10
“Bhikkhus, there are these four obscurations of the sun and moon, obscured by which the sun and moon don’t glow, don’t shine, don’t dazzle. Which four? Clouds… Fog…. Smoke and dust… Rāhu, the king of the asuras (believed to be the cause of an eclipse) is an obscuration, obscured by which the sun and moon don’t glow, don’t shine, don’t dazzle…. In the same way, there are four obscurations of contemplatives and brahmans, obscured by which some contemplatives and brahmans don’t glow, don’t shine, don’t dazzle. Which four? There are some contemplatives and brahmans who… do not refrain from drinking alcohol and fermented liquor… who do not refrain from sexual intercourse… who do not refrain from accepting gold and silver… who do not refrain from wrong livelihood…. Because of these obscurations, some brahmans and contemplatives… covered with darkness, slaves to craving, led on, swell the terrible charnel ground, grab at further becoming.”—AN 4:50
Bhikkhus, in abandoning the use of money, make real their abandonment of worldly pursuits and show others by example that the struggle for wealth is not the true way to find happiness.
The factors for an offense under this rule are two: object and effort. However, because “object” is defined in one way for the first two actions stated in the rule, and in another way for the third, it seems best to analyze this rule as covering two separate but related offenses.
In the first offense the factors are:
1) Object: gold or silver.
2) Effort: One accepts or gets someone else to accept it.
In the second offense they are:
1) Object: gold or silver intended for one.
2) Effort: One consents to its being placed down next to one.
The Vibhaṅga defines gold so as to include anything made of gold. Silver it defines to cover coins made of silver, copper, wood, or lac, or whatever is used as a currency. The Commentary adds such examples as bones, pieces of hide, fruit, and seeds of trees used as currency, whether they have been stamped with a figure or not. At present, the term would include coins and paper currency, as well as money orders and cashiers checks not made out to a specific payee, as these meet all three requirements of a currency: (1) They are a generally accepted medium of exchange; (2) they are of standard recognized value; and (3) they are presentable by any bearer. The following items, because they do not fulfill all three of these requirements, would not count as “silver” under this rule: money orders and cashier’s checks made out to a specific payee; personal checks and travelers’ checks; credit cards and debit cards; gift cards, phone cards, frequent flyer miles; food stamps; and promissory notes.
Because the word silver here functionally means “money,” that is how I will translate it for the remainder of the discussion of this rule.
The Vibhaṅga indicates that perception is not a mitigating factor in either offense. Thus if a bhikkhu receives gold or money, even if he perceives it as something else—as when accepting a closed envelope not knowing that it contains money, or consenting to a bolt of cloth’s being placed near him, unaware that money has been placed inside it—he commits the full offense all the same. The same holds true if he is in doubt about what the envelope or bolt of cloth contains. This may seem a harsh penalty for a bhikkhu acting in complete innocence, but we must remember that, having received the money even unknowingly, he is now in possession of it and must dispose of it in a proper way. The protocols under this rule give directions for precisely how to do that.
If a bhikkhu accepts or consents to the placing of something that is not gold or money and yet he perceives it to be gold or money or is in doubt about its status, he incurs a dukkaṭa.
Gold Buddha images and gold items given to Buddha images, relics, or stūpas are not mentioned in the texts in connection with this rule. Over the centuries the common practice has been not to regard them as fulfilling the factor of object here, probably because Buddha images, stūpas, and relics, strictly speaking, cannot be owned by anyone. Similarly with items given to a Buddha image, etc.: Technically, these belong to the image, etc., and not to the monastery in which it may be located. Thus, as long as a bhikkhu realizes that he cannot assume ownership of any of these things, he may handle them without incurring an offense under this rule.
As mentioned under NP 10, the Commentary derives from the Canon a list of items that it says carry a dukkaṭa when accepted by a bhikkhu. These include pearls and precious stones; uncooked grain and raw meat; women and girls, male and female slaves; goats and sheep, fowl and pigs, elephants, cattle, steeds, and mares; fields and property. For convenience’s sake, we will refer to these items from here on as dukkaṭa objects (dukkaṭa-vatthu), or D.O. for short.
This factor may be fulfilled by any of three actions: accepting gold or money, having it accepted, or consenting to its being deposited. As noted above, the factors of the offense differ among the three: In the first two, the question of whether the bhikkhu consents to the gold or money does not enter into the definition of the act, nor does the donor’s intention as to who the gold or money is for. Only in the third act is the bhikkhu’s consent required to fulfill the action, and only there is it required that the donor intend the gold or money for the bhikkhu himself.
According to the K/Commentary, this includes receiving gold or money offered as a gift or picking up gold or money left lying around ownerless. (As the non-offense clauses show, this factor does not cover cases where one picks up money left lying around the monastery or a house where one is visiting if one’s purpose is to keep it in safekeeping for the owner. See Pc 84.) According to the Commentary, a bhikkhu who accepts money wrapped up in a bolt of cloth would also commit an offense here, which shows that this act includes receiving or taking the money not only with one’s body, but also with items connected with the body. Thus accepting money in an envelope or having it placed in one’s shoulder bag as it hangs from one’s shoulder would fulfill this factor as well.
The K/Commentary adds the stipulation that in the taking there must be some movement of the gold or money from one place to another. It offers no explanation for this point, but it may refer to cases where the gold or money is forced on a bhikkhu. (Because the presence or absence of the bhikkhu’s consent does not enter into the definition of the act of accepting, this means that when gold or money is forced on him, the act has been accomplished.) A typical example where this stipulation is useful is when a bhikkhu is on alms round and a lay donor, against the bhikkhu’s protestations, places money in his bowl. The stipulation allows the bhikkhu simply to stand there until he gets the donor or someone else to remove the money, and he would be absolved of an offense under this rule.
The commentaries add intention as an extra factor—the full offense is entailed only if the bhikkhu is taking the gold or money for his own sake—but there is no basis for this in the Vibhaṅga. The bhikkhu’s intention in accepting the money does not enter into the Vibhaṅga’s discussions of any of the three actions covered by this rule, the donor’s intent does not enter into the Vibhaṅga’s definition of this action, and the non-offense clauses do not allow for a bhikkhu to accept money for others, so the added factor seems unwarranted. Whether the bhikkhu accepts gold or money for himself or for others is thus not an issue here.
2) Having gold or money accepted
Having gold or money accepted, according to the K/Commentary, includes getting someone else to do any of the actions covered under accepting, as described above. Examples from the commentaries, which draw on the protocols under NP 10, include such things as telling the donor to give the money to a steward, telling the donor that so-and-so will take the money for him; telling the steward to take the money, to put it in a donation box, to “do what he thinks appropriate,” or any similar command.
Anything that falls short of a command, though, would not fulfill this factor, as we have already seen under NP 10. Thus simply telling the donor that X is the bhikkhus’ steward—or that the monastery’s stewards have placed a donation box in such-and-such a place—would not be a factor for an offense here. Also, if the donor—over the bhikkhu’s protestations—leaves money, say, on a table as a gift for a bhikkhu, then if the bhikkhu tells his steward what the donor did and said, without telling the steward to do anything with the money—letting the steward figure things out on his/her own—this too would not entail a penalty. The Commentary’s discussion of stewards under the next point shows that while a bhikkhu who tells a volunteer steward to put such a donation in a donation box would incur a penalty, a bhikkhu who simply points out the donation box would not.
As with the act of accepting, the questions of the bhikkhu’s consent, his intent in accepting, and the donor’s intent in giving do not enter into the definition of this action.
3) Consenting to gold or money’s being deposited
The Vibhaṅga defines this action as follows: “He (the donor), saying, ‘This is for the master,’ deposits it, and the bhikkhu consents (§).” According to the K/Commentary, depositing covers two sorts of situations:
1) The donor places gold or money anywhere in the bhikkhu’s presence, and says, “This is for the master,” or
2) The donor tells him, “I have some gold or money deposited in such-and-such a location. It’s yours.” (One of the implications of this second case is that any monastery with a donation box should make clear that money left in the box is being placed with the steward. Because NP 10 allows a donor to place gold or money intended for a bhikkhu’s needs with a steward, the act of placing money with such a person in a bhikkhu’s presence does not count as “depositing” here.)
Consenting in either of these cases, says the Commentary, means that one does not refuse either in thought, word, or deed. Refusing in thought means thinking, “This is not proper for me.” Refusing in word means telling the donor that such a gift is not allowable. Refusing in deed means making a gesture to the same effect. If one refuses in any of these ways—e.g., one wants to accept the gold or money, but tells the donor that it is not allowable; or one says nothing, but simply reminds oneself that such gifts are not proper to accept—one avoids the penalty here.
The question of whether it is best to express one’s refusal outwardly lies beyond the scope of the Vinaya and often depends on the situation. Ideally, one should inform the donor so that he/she will know enough not to present such gifts in the future, but there are cases where the donor is still new to the idea of rules and will simply be offended if the bhikkhu objects to what he/she means as a well-intentioned gesture. This is thus a matter where a bhikkhu should use his discretion.
The Commentary contains a long discussion of what a bhikkhu should do if, after he refuses such a donation, the donor goes off leaving it there anyway. If someone else comes along and asks the bhikkhu, “What is this?”, the bhikkhu may tell him/her what he and the donor said, but may not ask him/her to do anything about it. If the person volunteers to put the gold or money into safekeeping, the bhikkhu may point out a safe place but may not tell him/her to put it there.
Once the gold or money is in a safe place, one may point it out to other people—one’s steward, for instance—but may not tell anyone to take it. The Commentary gives directions for how to arrange an exchange with gold or money in such a case so as not to violate NP 19 & 20, but I will save that part of the discussion until we come to those rules.
However, the Vibhaṅga’s definition of “depositing” gold or money for a bhikkhu indicates that the question of who the donor intends the money for does make a difference under this action, because the nature of the donor’s action is defined by what he or she says. If the donor means the money for the bhikkhu and the bhikkhu consents to its being placed nearby, that fulfills the factor here. This covers cases where the donor says, “This is for you,” or “This is for you to give to X.”
In cases where the donor says, “This is for the Community,” or “This is for Bhikkhu Y,” and Bhikkhu X consents to its being placed down near him, the Commentary—drawing on the Great Standards—says that X incurs a dukkaṭa. It does not say, though, what should be done with the money, aside from stating that any bhikkhu who uses anything bought with it also incurs a dukkaṭa. Its discussion of the following rule, though, would seem to imply that it should be returned to the original donor.
If money for Bhikkhu Y is placed near Bhikkhu X in this way, and Y in turn consents to the donation, then Y would incur the full penalty here as well. The Commentary’s discussion under NP 10 indicates that if money for the Community is placed near Bhikkhu X, the Community is said to have consented to it only when all members of the Community unanimously consent to it. If one member refuses consent, he saves all the other members from committing an offense—except for X, who still has his dukkaṭa.
The Commentary here also says that a bhikkhu who consents to monetary donations “placed nearby” him for monastery buildings incurs a dukkaṭa as well. This refers to cases where the donor says, “This is for the Community to use in building such-and-such,” and places the money down next to the bhikkhu. As the Commentary itself says under NP 10, if the donor does not mention the name of the bhikkhu or the Community as custodians or recipients of the funds, the donations are not to be refused. Rather, they are to be left there and the steward told of what the donor said.
Forfeiture & confession
A bhikkhu who commits either offense under this rule must forfeit the gold or money in the midst of a formal meeting of the Community before confessing the offense. The formulae and procedures for forfeiture and confession are given in Appendix VI. This is one of the few NP rules where the offender may not forfeit the item in question to an individual bhikkhu or to a group of less than four. Once he has forfeited the gold or money and confessed his offense, the Community may not return it to him, as there is no way a bhikkhu is allowed to possess these things.
If a lay person comes along after the gold or money has been forfeited, the bhikkhus may tell him, “Look at this.” If he asks, “What should be bought with this?”, the bhikkhus are not to tell him to buy anything (as that would violate NP 20), although they may tell him what in general is allowable for bhikkhus, such as the five tonics, as under NP 23, below. If he takes the gold or money and purchases any proper items, all the bhikkhus except the one who originally accepted the gold or money may make use of them. If the lay person does not volunteer to buy anything with the gold or money, the bhikkhus should tell him to get rid of it.
If he does not get rid of it, they are to choose one of the bhikkhus present as the “money-disposer,” by means of the transaction statement—one motion and one announcement (ñatti-dutiya-kamma)—given in Appendix VI. The money-disposer must be free of the four forms of bias—based on desire, aversion, delusion, or fear—and must know when money is properly disposed of and when it is not. His duty is to throw the money away without taking note of where it falls. If he does take note, he incurs a dukkaṭa. The Commentary recommends that, “Closing his eyes, he should throw it into a river, over a cliff, or into a jungle thicket without paying attention to where it falls, disinterested as if it were a bodily secretion (gūthaka).”
None of the texts mention what a bhikkhu is to do with dukkaṭa objects he has received, but as we shall see under the following rule, the Commentary would seem to suggest that he return them to their donors.
As mentioned above, there is no offense for the bhikkhu who, finding gold or money lying around the monastery or in a house he is visiting, puts it away in safe keeping for the owner. This point is discussed in detail under Pc 84.
There is some controversy over the status of checks under this rule. In legal terms, a check is a notice to a bank to provide funds for the payee. Because banks are corporate individuals and not “places,” a check made out to a bhikkhu is thus equivalent to a notice from a donor to a steward to provide funds on the bhikkhu’s behalf. Because the funds in question do not change ownership until the recipient cashes the check, this strengthens the similarity to funds placed with a steward: The funds still belong to the donor until they are used, and the steward is responsible if they become lost in the meantime. Thus the simple act of receiving a check counts not as an act of receiving money but as an acknowledgement of the notice. In passing the notice to someone else, one is simply informing them of the donor’s arrangement. Only if a bhikkhu cashes a check or gives an order to someone else to do so does he commit an offense under this rule.
A bhikkhu who uses a check as a means of barter commits an offense under NP 20. The most he is allowed to do when receiving a check is to hand it over to his steward—being careful not to say anything that would violate the etiquette of kappiya vohāra (“wording things right”) under this rule or NP 10, 19, & 20—and to let the steward make whatever arrangements he/she sees fit.
Summary: Accepting gold or money, having someone else accept it, or consenting to its being placed down as a gift for oneself is a nissaggiya pācittiya offense.
* * *
Should any bhikkhu engage in various types of monetary exchange, it (the income) is to be forfeited and confessed.
There are two factors for an offense here: object and effort.
The Vibhaṅga defines money in the same terms it uses to define gold and silver in the preceding rule: any type of gold, whether shaped into an ornament or not; and any coins or other items used as currency.
The Vibhaṅga’s description of the kind of exchange covered by this rule differs from that given in the Commentary, so they are best discussed separately.
The Vibhaṅga’s interpretation
Monetary exchange refers primarily to the type of business and speculation a gold dealer would engage in—exchanging currency, trading gold ore for gold shaped into ornaments or vice versa, trading gold ore for gold ore, or gold ornaments for gold ornaments—but the Vibhaṅga’s discussion of the factor of perception shows that the factor of effort here includes any exchange in which the bhikkhu ends up with gold or money as a result of the exchange. Thus it would cover cases where a bhikkhu sells any kind of item—allowable or unallowable—for money.
At first glance, this rule would seem redundant with the preceding rule against receiving money and the following rule against engaging in trade, but actually it closes a number of loopholes in those rules. In the preceding rule, a bhikkhu may point out a steward to a person who brings money intended for him; and in the following rule he can, if he words it right, propose a trade or tell a steward to arrange a trade for him. Thus, given just those two rules, it would be possible for a bhikkhu using “proper” procedures to have his steward engage in currency speculation and other money-making activities without committing an offense.
This rule, though, includes no such exceptions for “wording things right (kappiya-vohāra),” and so closes those loopholes as far as this type of trading is concerned. As a result, a bhikkhu may not express a desire to his steward that he/she sell something belonging to him or take funds dedicated for his use and invest them for monetary return. If the bhikkhu is going abroad, he must leave it up to his steward to figure out that any funds donated for his use may have to be exchanged for foreign currency if they are going to serve any purpose.
According to the K/Commentary, the item offered in exchange must be one’s own if the exchange is to fall under this rule, but the Vibhaṅga’s non-offense clauses make no exemptions for a bhikkhu who engages in monetary exchange using items belonging to anyone else. Thus if a bhikkhu were to arrange a monetary exchange using goods belonging to his family, he would have to forfeit any proceeds from the exchange that they might offer to him.
Perception is not a factor here. Thus, when receiving gold or money, even if he perceives it as something else or is in doubt about the matter, he would still be fulfilling the factor of effort. If, when receiving something other than gold or money, if he perceives it as gold or money or is in doubt about it, the penalty would be a dukkaṭa.
The Commentary’s interpretation
According to the Commentary, monetary exchange refers to any trade in which money is involved—whether as the item the bhikkhu brings into the trade, gets out of the trade, or both. Buddhaghosa states that this interpretation is based on a passage that is not in the Vibhaṅga but logically should be. The Sub-commentary supports him, explaining that if monetary exchange covers trades in which money forms one side of the trade, it shouldn’t matter which side of the trade it is on.
This, however, contradicts a number of points in the Vibhaṅga. (1) Its table of the possible actions covered by this rule includes only cases where the outcome of the trade for the bhikkhu is money. As we noted in the Introduction, we have to trust that the Vibhaṅga arrangers knew what was and was not an offense under a certain rule, and that if they had meant the rule to cover more than the alternatives listed in the table they would have included them. (2) In the Vibhaṅga’s discussion of how the forfeiture is to be conducted, it consistently refers to the offender as the “one who purchased money” and to the bhikkhu who throws the forfeited object away as the “money-disposer.” (3) If monetary exchange covers cases where the bhikkhu uses money to buy allowable things, then the discussion of how a bhikkhu could get his steward to use money rightfully placed with the steward to buy such things would have been included under this rule; instead, it is included under the following rule. All of this seems to indicate that the Commentary is on shaky ground when it tries to force its interpretation on the Vibhaṅga here.
Still, the Commentary’s interpretation is widely followed and fairly complex, so it will be good to discuss it in some detail.
As under the preceding rule, the Commentary divides articles into three sorts:
nissaggiya objects (N.O.), i.e., articles such as gold and money, which entail a nissaggiya pācittiya when accepted;
dukkaṭa objects (D.O.), articles such as pearls, precious stones; uncooked grain, raw meat; women and girls, male and female slaves; goats and sheep, fowl and pigs, elephants, cattle, steeds, and mares; fields and property, any of which entail a dukkaṭa when accepted;
allowable objects (A.O.), articles that a bhikkhu may rightfully accept and possess.
It then works out the following scheme to cover all possible trades involving these objects:
Using to buy results in
N.O. → N.O. a nissaggiya pācittiya
N.O. → D.O. a nissaggiya pācittiya
N.O. → A.O. a nissaggiya pācittiya
D.O. → N.O. a nissaggiya pācittiya
D.O. → D.O. a dukkaṭa*
D.O. → A.O. a dukkaṭa*
A.O. → N.O. a nissaggiya pācittiya
A.O. → D.O. a dukkaṭa*
A.O. → A.O. a nissaggiya pācittiya under NP 20
The trades marked with asterisks point out one of the anomalies of the Commentary’s interpretation: Why trades involving D.O. should entail only a dukkaṭa, while A.O. → A.O. trades should entail a nissaggiya pācittiya is hard to fathom.
At any rate, to continue with the Commentary’s explanations: N.O. → A.O. trades cover two possible cases, depending on whether the money was obtained properly or improperly under the preceding rule. If improperly, the object bought with the money is unallowable for all bhikkhus. This holds whether the bhikkhu makes the purchase himself or a steward makes it for him. The only way the item can be made allowable is to have an equal sum of money returned to the original donor and the item returned to the person who sold it, and then arrange for a proper exchange as allowed under the following rule. (At first glance, it may seem strange for the Commentary to insist that the price of the A.O. be returned to the original donor of the N.O., as the bhikkhus are in no way in his/her debt; but this is probably the Commentary’s way of ensuring that if the seller returns the purchase price of the A.O. to the bhikkhus’ steward, it is not used to repurchase the A.O.)
If, however, a bhikkhu engages in a N.O. → A.O. trade using money obtained properly under the preceding rule, the item bought is unallowable only for him, but allowable for other bhikkhus once he has forfeited it. If N.O. → A.O. exchanges really were covered by this rule, though, this would contradict the Vibhaṅga, which insists that the item obtained as a result of this rule either has to be given to a lay person or thrown away. Thus it seems better to follow the Vibhaṅga in treating cases of this sort under the following rule.
The Commentary makes no mention of what should be done with items resulting from trades that carry a dukkaṭa here, but its discussion of how to “undo” a trade so as to make the item allowable suggests the following scheme:
For a D.O → D.O. trade: Return the object bought to the person who sold it, return the original object to the donor, and confess the offense.
For a D.O. → A.O. trade: Return the object bought to the person who sold it, return the original object to the donor, and confess the offense. If one wants to, one may then approach the person who sold the allowable object and arrange a proper trade in accordance with the following rule.
For an A.O. → D.O. trade: Return the object bought to the person who sold it and confess the offense.
As an intellectual exercise, the Commentary considers the question of a trade that results in an A.O. that can never be made allowable, and comes up with the following scenario: A bhikkhu takes money improperly obtained under the preceding rule, uses it to get iron mined, smelted, and made into a bowl. Because there is no way to undo these transactions—the iron can never be returned to its state as ore—there is no way any bhikkhu may ever properly make use of the iron no matter what is done with it.
As mentioned above, the Commentary’s explanations here contradict the Vibhaṅga on a number of points, and contain several anomalies as well. It seems preferable to treat a number of cases it mentions here—N.O. → D.O., N.O. → A.O., D.O. → D.O., D.O. → A.O., A.O. → D.O., or in other words, any trade resulting in an allowable or a dukkaṭa object—under the following rule instead.
Forfeiture & confession
When a bhikkhu has obtained gold or money in violation of this rule he is to forfeit it in the midst of a formal meeting of the Community, following the procedures explained under the preceding rule. The Pali formulae for forfeiture and confession are in Appendix VI.
The Vibhaṅga’s non-offense clauses contain nothing but the blanket exemptions mentioned under Pr 1.
Summary: Obtaining gold or money through trade is a nissaggiya pācittiya offense.
* * *
Should any bhikkhu engage in various types of trade, it (the article obtained) is to be forfeited and confessed.
“Now at that time Ven. Upananda the Sakyan had become accomplished at making robes. Having made an outer robe of cloak-scraps, having dyed it well and stitched it nicely, he wore it. A certain wanderer, wearing a very expensive cloak, went to him and on arrival said to him, ‘Your outer robe is beautiful, my friend. Give it to me in exchange for this cloak.’
“‘Do you know (what you’re doing), my friend?’
“‘Yes, I know.’
“‘Okay, then.’ And he gave him the robe.
“Then the wanderer went to the wanderers’ park wearing the outer robe. The other wanderers said to him, ‘Your outer robe is beautiful, friend. Where did you get it?’
“‘I got it in exchange for my cloak.’
“‘But how long will this outer robe last you? That cloak of yours was better.’
“So the wanderer, thinking, ‘It’s true what the wanderers said. How long will this outer robe last me? That cloak of mine was better,’ went to Ven. Upananda the Sakyan and on arrival said, ‘Here is your outer robe, my friend. Give me my cloak.’
“‘But didn’t I ask you, “Do you know (what you’re doing)?” I won’t give it to you.’
“So the wanderer criticized and complained and spread it about, ‘Even a householder will give to another householder who regrets (a trade). How can one who has gone forth not give (the same courtesy) to one who has gone forth?’”
As we noted under NP 10, one of the purposes of this rule is to relieve bhikkhus of the responsibilities that come with making trades—the responsibility of having to get a fair price for one’s goods and at the same time offering a fair deal to the person receiving them.
The factors for an offense here are two: object and effort.
The Vibhaṅga defines various types of trade as covering deals involving the four requisites, “even a lump of powder, tooth wood, or unwoven thread”—these being its standard examples of objects with the least possible material value. The Commentary interprets this definition as limiting this rule to deals involving nothing but allowable objects (A.O. → A.O.), but there is nothing in the Vibhaṅga to suggest that this is necessarily so. The emphasis in the Vibhaṅga seems to be that this rule covers even allowable objects of the least possible value, and all the more so more valuable and restricted objects. In fact, as the Vibhaṅga explicitly limits the preceding rule to trades that result in money for the bhikkhu (N.O. → N.O.; D.O. → N.O.; A.O. → N.O.), it seems best to interpret this rule as covering all types of trade not covered in that rule:
N.O. → D.O.; N.O. → A.O.;
D.O. → D.O.; D.O. → A.O.;
A.O. → D.O.; and A.O. → A.O.
The Vibhaṅga, in its description of what constitutes a trade, makes reference to “one’s own” object going to the hand of the other, and the other’s object going to one’s own hand. From this, the K/Commentary deduces that the object given in trade has to be one’s own personal possession. This deduction, however, is mistaken for several reasons: (1) The Vibhaṅga’s protocols under NP 10 do not allow one to tell a steward to use the funds placed in his care to buy or barter for anything, and yet these funds do not belong to the bhikkhu. (2) The Vibhaṅga’s protocols for disposing of money under NP 18 & 19 do not allow a bhikkhu to tell a lay person to buy anything with the money forfeited by the offender under those rules, and again this money does not belong to the bhikkhu. (3) The non-offense clauses to this rule make no exemptions for a bhikkhu who trades using goods belonging to someone else. Thus it would appear that the phrase, “one’s own” goods, in the Vibhaṅga’s description of a trade, is defined simply in opposition to the phrase, “the other person’s” goods prior to the trade. In other words, it would cover anything that starts out on one’s side before the trade, whether those items are one’s own personal possessions or another person’s possessions that have been placed in deposit for one’s use (such as funds placed with a steward) or in one’s keeping (such as monastery funds placed under the supervision of a monastery official).
Engaging in trade, according to the Vibhaṅga, involves two steps:
1) The bhikkhu proposes an exchange, saying, “Give this for that,” or “Take this for that,” or “Exchange this for that,” or “Purchase this with that.” Because the non-offense clauses make no exemption for exchanges conducted by gesture, any gesture—including a written message or sign language—that clearly makes this proposal would fulfill this step.
2) The goods exchange hands, the bhikkhu’s goods ending up with the other person, and the other person’s goods ending up with the bhikkhu.
The first step entails a dukkaṭa; both steps together, a nissaggiya pācittiya. Perception is not a mitigating factor here: If a bhikkhu manages an exchange in a way that he thinks avoids a penalty under this rule but in fact doesn’t (see below), he commits the full offense all the same. If, on the other hand, he manages an exchange in such a way that would avoid a penalty under this rule but he thinks that it falls under the rule or else is in doubt about the matter, he incurs a dukkaṭa.
Forfeiture & confession
Once a bhikkhu has received an article from a trade, he is to forfeit it either to an individual bhikkhu, to a group of two or three, or to a full Community of four or more. Only then may he confess the offense. The procedures for forfeiture, confession, and the return of the article are the same as under NP 1. The Pali formula for forfeiture is in Appendix VI.
The Vibhaṅga makes no mention of what the bhikkhu may and may not do with the article after receiving it in return, and so it appears that he may keep it as he likes. However, if an individual bhikkhu has used nissaggiya or dukkaṭa objects in a trade, he might—as a wise policy—want to prevent any suspicions that he is trying to “launder” them, and so he may take a page from the Commentary to the preceding rule as his own personal protocol, as follows:
If the exchange was N.O. → D.O., he should return the D.O. to its seller. If the N.O. was properly obtained under NP 18 (e.g., it was placed with a steward), there is nothing further to be done. If not, the bhikkhu should confess the offense for violating that rule. (If the seller offers to refund the purchase price, the bhikkhu should not accept it. If he does, he must forfeit it in the midst of the Community. If he doesn’t accept it, he should simply confess the pācittiya offense for originally accepting the N.O.)
If the exchange was N.O. → A.O., then if the N.O. was obtained in violation of NP 18, no bhikkhu may make use of the A.O. unless it is returned to the seller, the price of the article is turned over to the original donor of the money, and the A.O. is then repurchased in a way that does not violate this rule. (Again, if the seller refunds the purchase price, the bhikkhu should not accept it. If he does, he must forfeit it in the midst of the Community. If he doesn’t accept it, he should simply confess the pācittiya offense for originally accepting the N.O.)
If the N.O. in this case was properly obtained, then the purchased article is allowable for other bhikkhus but not for the offender. (This case covers the instances mentioned under NP 10 where a bhikkhu tells his steward to purchase an article with the fund placed in the steward’s trust for the bhikkhu’s needs. Some might object that if the N.O. was properly obtained it should be treated as A.O., but we must remember that a bhikkhu who orders his steward to use money to buy an object is assuming ownership of the money, which goes against the spirit of NP 10 & 18 and the protocol of having a steward in the first place.)
If the exchange was D.O. → D.O., the bhikkhu should return the purchased article to the seller and the original article (if the seller returns it to him) to the original donor.
If the exchange was D.O. → A.O., the purchased article is not allowable for any bhikkhu unless it is returned to the seller, the D.O. is returned to the original donor, and the A.O. is then repurchased in a way that does not violate this rule.
If the exchange was A.O. → D.O., the bhikkhu should return the purchased article to the seller.
If the exchange was A.O. → A.O., the bhikkhu may make use of the article as he likes.
If the exchange was wages in payment for services rendered, the Commentary notes that there is no way the bhikkhu can rightfully get the payment back, so he should simply confess a pācittiya offense.
All of these protocols derived from the Commentary are optional, however, for—as noted above—the Vibhaṅga places no restrictions on what the bhikkhu may or may not do with the article after having forfeited it and received it in return.
In the origin story to NP 5, the Buddha allows bhikkhus to trade allowable articles with other bhikkhus, bhikkhunīs, female trainees, and male or female novices. The present rule thus covers trades made only with people who are not one’s co-religionists.
As for trades with people who are not one’s co-religionists, the Vibhaṅga here adds that a bhikkhu commits no offense—
if he asks the price of an object;
if he tells a steward;
if he tells the seller, “I have this. I have need of such-and-such,” and then lets the seller arrange the exchange as he/she sees fit. This last point may seem like mere hair splitting, but we must remember that if a trade is arranged in this way, the bhikkhu is absolved from any responsibility for the fairness of the deal, which seems to be the whole point of the rule.
The Commentary, in discussing these exemptions, raises the following points:
1) A bhikkhu who tries to avoid the technicalities of what is defined as engaging in trading by saying simply, “Give this. Take that,” may do so only with his parents. Otherwise, telling a lay person to take one’s belongings as his/her own is to “bring a gift of faith (saddhā-deyya) to waste”—i.e., to misuse the donations that lay supporters, out of faith, have sacrificed for the bhikkhu’s use (see Mv.VIII.22.1; BMC2, Chapter 10). On the other hand, telling an unrelated lay person to give something is a form of begging, which carries a dukkaṭa unless the lay person is related or has invited one to ask in the first place. (From this we may deduce that bhikkhus should not bargain after having asked the price of goods or services—e.g., a taxi fare—even in situations where bargaining is the norm.)
2) Under the previous rule, the Commentary mentioned that a bhikkhu engaging in an otherwise allowable trade for profit incurs a dukkaṭa. Here it says that if a bhikkhu, proposing a trade by wording it right (kappiya-vohāra), deceives the seller as to the value of his goods, he is to be treated under Pr 2. However, as the Vibhaṅga to Pr 2 indicates, goods received through deceit are to be treated not under that rule but under Pc 1.
3) In the case of “telling a steward,” both the Commentary and K/Commentary deem it allowable to tell the steward, “Having gotten that with this, give it (to me).” This, however, is a clear violation of the protocols set forth by the Vibhaṅga under NP 10, according to which a bhikkhu is not allowed to speak in the imperative, giving the command, “Give,” to a steward, much less a command to barter or buy. Instead, he is allowed to speak only in the declarative: “I have need of such-and-such,” or “I want such-and-such.” Declarative statements of this sort would thus appear to be the only statements allowed under this non-offense clause as well.
4) If a bhikkhu goes with his steward to a store and sees that the steward is getting a bad deal, he may simply tell the steward, “Don’t take it.”
5) The Commentary to NP 10 describes how a bhikkhu may make a purchase when his steward has left funds in safe-keeping on the bhikkhu’s premises but is not present to arrange a trade when, say, a bowl-seller comes along. The bhikkhu may tell the seller, “I want this bowl, and there are funds of equal value here, but there is no steward to make them allowable.” If the seller volunteers to make them allowable, the bhikkhu may show him where they are but may not tell him how much to take. If the seller takes too much, the bhikkhu may cancel the sale by saying, “I don’t want your bowl after all.”
In general it is not a wise policy to have funds left for safe-keeping on one’s premises—a Community allowing this exposes itself to the dangers of robbery and assault—but the Commentary here seems less interested in describing ideal behavior than in simply drawing the line between what is and is not an offense.
1) The Bhikkhunīs’ NP rules 4-10 show that if a lay donor gives money to a storeowner to pay for whatever a bhikkhunī will request from the store, the bhikkhunī may avail herself of the arrangement. If the donor stipulates that this arrangement applies only to certain items, or to items worth a certain amount, she may request only what falls under the stipulation: This is the point of the rules. In effect, what this is doing is making the storeowner her steward. Such an arrangement would thus also seem allowable for bhikkhus as long as they word their requests to the storeowner properly, as advised under NP 10.
2) As mentioned under NP 18, checks, credit cards, debit cards, and traveler’s checks do not count as gold or money. However, any trade arranged with them would come under this rule.
In cases where an actual physical item is handed over to the seller in the course of such a trade, the trade is accomplished in the physical exchange, with no need to wait for funds to enter the seller’s account for the offense to be incurred. This is because “object” under this rule can be fulfilled by an item of the least inherent monetary value.
For instance, if a bhikkhu hands a check to a seller—or tells his steward to hand it over—in exchange for goods or services in the manner specified by this rule, he would commit the full offense the moment the check and goods change hands.
Similarly with credit cards: The offense is committed when the bhikkhu hands the signed credit card receipt—or has it handed—to the seller and receives goods or services in return. The receipt is an acknowledgement of the goods or services received from the seller, which in the context of the cardholder’s agreement with the credit card company is his promise to repay the loan he is taking out with the company. This promise is what the bhikkhu is trading with the seller, who will then use it to draw funds from the company’s account.
If, however, no physical item is handed over to the seller, the trade is not accomplished until funds enter the seller’s account. An example would be a debit card: The full offense is committed only when, after pushing the personal identification number (PIN)—which is his order to the bank to pay the seller—the bhikkhu receives goods and services from the seller, and funds are transferred to the seller’s account from his.
Summary: Engaging in trade with anyone except one’s co-religionists is a nissaggiya pācittiya offense.