The Uposatha And Patimokkha
When Seniya Bimbisara, the king of Magadha, was advanced in
years, he retired from the world and led a religious life. He
observed that there were Brahmanical sects in Rajagaha keeping
sacred certain days, and the people went to their meeting-houses
and listened to their sermons.
Concerning the need of keeping regular days for retirement from
worldly labors and religious instruction, the king went to the
Blessed One and said: "The Parivrajaka, who belong to the
Titthiya school, prosper and gain adherents because they keep the
eighth day and also the fourteenth or fifteenth day of each
half-month. Would it not be advisable for the reverend brethren
of the Sangha also to assemble on days duly appointed for that
And the Blessed One commanded the bhikkhus to assemble on the
eighth day and also on the fourteenth or fifteenth day of each
half-month, and to devote these days to religious exercises.
A bhikkhu duly appointed should address the congregation and
expound the Dharma. He should exhort the people to walk in the
eightfold path of righteousness; he should comfort them in the
vicissitudes of life and gladden them with the bliss of the fruit
of good deeds. Thus the brethren should keep the Uposatha.
Now the bhikkhus, in obedience to the rule laid down by the
Blessed One, assembled in the vihara on the day appointed, and
the people went to hear the Dharma, but they were greatly
disappointed, for the bhikkhus remained silent and delivered no
When the Blessed One heard of it, he ordered the bhikkhus to
recite the Patimokkha, which is a ceremony of disburdening the
conscience; and he commanded them to make confession of their
trespasses so as to receive the absolution of the order.
A fault, if there be one, should be confessed by the bhikkhu who
remembers it and desires to be cleansed. For a fault, when
confessed, shall be light on him.
And the Blessed One said: "The Patimokkha must be recited in this
"Let a competent and venerable bhikkhu make the following
proclamation to the Sangha: 'May the Sangha hear me! To-day is
Uposatha, the eighth, or the fourteenth or fifteenth day of the
half-month. If the Sangha is ready, let the Sangha hold the
Uposatha service and recite the Patimokkha. I will recite the
"And the bhikkhus shall reply: 'We hear it well and we
concentrate well our minds on it, all of us.'
"Then the officiating bhikkhu shall continue: 'Let him who has
committed an offence, confess it; if there be no offence, let all
remain silent; from your being silent I shall understand that the
reverend brethren are free from offences.
'As a single person who has been asked a question answers it, so
also, if before an assembly like this a question is solemnly
proclaimed three times, an answer is expected: if a bhikkhu,
after a threefold proclamation, does not confess an existing
offence which he remembers, he commits an intentional falsehood.
'Now, reverend brethren, an intentional falsehood has been
declared an impediment by the Blessed One. Therefore, if an
offence has been committed by a bhikkhu who remembers it and
desires to become pure, the offence should be confessed by the
bhikkhu, and when it has been confessed, it is treated duly.'"
Next: The Schism