I’ve had some conversations off-list with our commenter Ravichander. He had some interesting thoughts regarding the third precept, so I encouraged him to put them in a form I could publish here. So here they are. Congratulations, Ravichander, it’s not easy doing this reasearch!
Preliminary evidence from the Agama version suggests that the explanation of sexual misconduct referred to rape or at least included it in its purview. Further comparisons from the Chinese/Sanskrit fragments would add more clarity to this matter.
Interpretation of the third Precept pericope
While browsing through the translations from the Tibetan version of the Upayika at Suttacentral.net, I came across the passage that explains the precept on sexual misconduct. It was much the same as the Pali version except for one significant detail1. This led to a hunt for the Sanskrit/Agama version of the passage resulting in this study.
I give the Pali text and its translation first:
Kāmesumicchācārī kho pana hoti. Yā tā māturakkhitā piturakkhitā mātāpiturakkhitā bhāturakkhitā bhaginirakkhitā ñātirakkhitā gottarakkhitā dhammarakkhitā sassāmikā saparidaṇḍā antamaso mālāguḷaparikkhittāpi, tathārūpāsu cārittaṃ āpajjitā hoti.2
Translation 1: He is given over to misconduct in sexual desires: he has intercourse with such (women) as are protected by the mother, father, (mother and father), brother, sister, relatives, as have a husband, as entail a penalty, and also with those that are garlanded in token of betrothal.3
Translation 2: Misbehaves in sexuality, misbehaving with those protected by father, mother, mother and father, brother, sister, relations, with those with a husband, becoming liable to punishment, or even those garlanded and made to promise.4
The Pali doesn’t actually say ‘has intercourse with’ or ‘misbehaving with’. Literally it says ‘gets into action’ with them (cārittaṃ āpajjitā hoti). Of course, from the context it has been inferred that it refers to sex and hence sex with any of the types of women listed in the passage is considered a violation of the third precept.
The list itself seems to be illustrative of various kinds of single (unmarried/widowed/celibate) and non-single (married/betrothed) women.
(Some editions of the sutta apparently don’t include ‘gottarakkhita’ meaning protected by the clan/gotra and ‘dhammarakkhita’ meaning protected by dhamma usually interpreted to mean nuns. They are not included in the translations presented above)
Parallel versions I have been able to find so far:
Sanskrit Mahaparinirvana sutra
( kiṁ nu) tvayānanda śrutaṁ yās tā vṛjīnāṁ vṛjiprajāpatyo) vṛjikumārikāś) ca pitṛrakṣitā mātṛrakṣitā bhrātṛrakṣitā bhaginīrakṣitāḥ śvaśurarakṣitāḥ śvaśrurakṣitā jñātirakṣitā gotrarakṣitāḥ saparidaṇḍāḥ sasvāmikāḥ kan)yāḥ paraparigṛ(hītā antaśo) mālāguṇaparikṣiptā api tadrūpāsu) na sa (hasā cāritram āpadyante | )5
Dharmaskandha, Sarvastivada Abhidharma
DhskM 21r8. -mithyācārād vairamaṇir upāsakasya śikṣāpadam iti kāmamithyācāraḥ katamaḥ / evaṃ hy uktaṃ bhagavatā kāmamithyācārī khalv ihaiko bhavati sa yās tā bhavanti parastriyaḥ parabhāryās tadyathā mātṛrakṣitā vā pitṛrākṣitā vā //
DhskM 21r9. śvaśrūrakṣitā vā śvaśurarakṣitā vā jñātirakṣitā vā jātirakṣitā vā gotrarakṣitā vā sadaṇḍāḥ / sāvaraṇāḥ sadaṇḍāvaraṇā antato mālāguṇaparikṣiptā / api tadrūpāsu sahasā balenānupraskandya kāmeṣu cāritram āpadyaty ayam ucyate ///
Some who have committed sexual misconduct—these are those who have not abstained from sexual misconduct, that is, seducing a woman guarded by her mother or guarded by her father or guarded by her brother or guarded by her sister or guarded by her father-in-law or guarded by her mother-in-law or guarded by her relatives or guarded by her family or guarded by her clan or a woman who has been garlanded in token of betrothal and isunder threat of punishment and veiled, because she has been already obtained by somebody else and is thus somebody else’s woman, or having sexual intercourse with her by overwhelming her.
German Translation of a Chinese version from Mulasarvastivada Vinaya
Ananda, hast du wohl gehört und weißt du, ob die frauen und jungfrauen jenes Landes behütet werden von den Müttern, behütet werden von den Vätern oder von den Brüdern, den Schwestern, den schwiegereltern oder der verwandtschaft behütet werden; ob diese (verwandten) sie, wenn sie übertretungen begangen haben, ermahnen und strafen; ob (die Frauen und Jungfrauen,) wenn sie Frauen order Nebenfrauen eines anderen (d.h. Mannes) geworden sind und sogar durch blumenüberreichung deren Ehefrauen zu werden gestattet haben, nicht mit diesen übereilt unsittliche Dinge treiben?6
Apart from the inclusion/variations in the list of women, the material difference seems to be the addition of the Sanskrit/Pali word – sahasā.
This term has two meanings: (i) Forcibly and (ii) Hastily
That the Chinese version also contained the word ‘sahasā’ can be inferred from the German word ‘übereilt’ in the translation. It means hasty/rash.
Choice of translation
The Tibetan translators of the Upayika apparently preferred the first meaning (forcibly) while the Chinese the second (hastily). We have two sources to show that the first meaning is to be preferred.
Vasala sutta in the Suttanipata(uraga vagga) uses the term ‘sahasā’ contrasting it with ‘sampiyena’ clearly referring to forced vs consensual sex. The commentary also confirms this.
‘‘Yo ñātīnaṃ sakhīnaṃ vā, dāresu paṭidissati;
Sāhasā [sahasā (sī. syā.)] sampiyena vā, taṃ jaññā vasalo iti.
Commentary: sāhasāti balakkārena
The Dharmaskandha version quoted above glosses the word with ‘balenānupraskandya’ ie having entered by force.
Construing the sentence with sahasā
The English translation of the Upayika adds ‘or’ to the last phrase. But the Sanskrit sources do not seem to contain it and neither does the Pali.
The last type of woman listed is ‘even those garlanded and made to promise’ ie betrothed. The addition of ‘api’(even) shows that the list has come to an end.
Then comes the phrase ‘tathārūpāsu’ which can be translated as with such women as these; The commentary confirms this by saying ‘evarūpāsu itthīsu’. This would imply that the list is only illustrative(showing the range of single/non-single women) and not exhaustive.
Now, including the word ‘sahasā’ following the Northern sources we have ‘sahasā cārittam āpajjitā hoti’. This translates to ‘gets into forcible action with’.
Therefore, the passage ends with ‘(he) gets into forcible action with women such as these’. In the absence of words like or/and (vā/ca), I feel the whole pericope refers exclusively to rape. I can’t see how else to construe the passage.
This point can be clarified only by collecting and comparing all parallel versions of this passage.( I hope Sāmaṇerī Dhammadinnā can re-confirm if the Tibetan Upayika indeed contains ‘or’ in the final phrase).
For discussion (not a conclusion!)
The question remains whether the word ‘sahasā’ was dropped from the Pali version or added to the Sanskrit version. Even if it was added by the Sarvastivadins, it would imply that they added it as a clarificatory gloss. This further implies that they considered the pericope as referring to rape even without the word.
However, it might just be possible that the word was dropped inadvertently or advertently from the Pali.
Inadvertantly because the sentence makes easier sense with the word – ‘acts forcibly’ instead of just ‘acts’.
Advertantly perhaps to widen the meaning to include consensual sex with the non-single women listed.
Only when more translations of the Agama versions are made available, can we draw any definite conclusions.
Irrespective of the meaning of the pericope, it is generally agreed that every precept has a primary meaning and then a wider one – as evidenced by many canonical passages. Thus the first precept primarily refers to killing but the wider meaning includes cruelty of any kind. The fourth precept primarily refers to false testimony but in a wider sense to any kind of harmful lies/slander. Similarly the third precept might primarily refer to rape but certainly includes adultery in its wider sense as evidenced, for example, by the Veludvara sutta in the Samyutta nikaya.
6 Researches in Indian and Buddhist Philosophy: Essays in honour of Professor Alex Wayman; Pg 13.(translation by Ernst Waldschmidt)