Vinaya–The 227 Rules

Vinaya are the 227 rules by which a Buddhist monk of the Theravada tradition must conduct himself—conspicuous in his orange robes, shaven head, and barefoot—though he is free to disrobe himself of this obedience at any time.

As the Buddha’s preaching and influence spread, it became the habit of his various beggar-followers to gather together during the time of the monsoon, when traveling was impossible. In these informal forest gatherings, his followers would ask for guidance about the various practical problems that had come their way, The Buddha’s responses were not written down during his lifetime but three months after his death it is believed that his chief followers recited what they could remember, dividing this oral spiritual inheritance into either Dharma ‘doctrine’ or Vinaya ‘discipline.’ There were 227 pieces of Vinaya advice for male followers—and 311 for women. An attempt was made to order them into some sort of priority but this was abandoned. By the time of the Third Buddhist Council, assembled at the invitation of the Emperor Ashoka, this heritage had already expanded into eighteen different scholarly traditions.

The Theravada tradition is that followed in modern Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Sri Lanka.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

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