Are the NKT’s ordination vows in keeping with the Vinaya?

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NKT’s Manjushri Buddhist Centre

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s decision to condense the 253 vows of a monk and the 364 vows of a nun into 10 vows does not go against the Vinaya. In fact, all the ordination vows could be further condensed into practising the higher training in moral discipline.

An ordained person practising the three higher trainings is thereby observing the entire Vinaya. How is this? No matter the number of precepts taken, they are merely symbolic, for in reality an ordained person promises to abstain from all non-virtuous actions. The ten ordination vows of monks and nuns in the New Kadampa Tradition are:

  1. abandon killing
  2. abandon stealing
  3. abandon sexual activity
  4. abandon lying
  5. abandon taking intoxicants
  6. practice contentment
  7. reduce one’s desire for worldly pleasures
  8. abandon engaging in meaningless activities
  9. maintain the commitments of refuge
  10. practice the three trainings of pure moral discipline, concentration, and wisdom

With the motivation of renunciation, when we practise any moral discipline – from the moral discipline of abandoning killing to the moral discipline of keeping all three sets of vows, the Pratimoksha, Bodhisattva, and Tantric vows – we are practising higher moral discipline. Without the motivation of renunciation, any practice of moral discipline is a cause of higher rebirth in samsara, but it is not a cause of liberation.

In Friendly Letter, Nagarjuna says:

Always practice superior moral discipline,
Superior concentration, and superior wisdom.
These three perfectly include
All the two hundred and fifty-three trainings.

Fully ordained monks take two hundred and fifty-three vows, and all of them are contained within the practice of higher moral discipline because they are taken with the motivation of renunciation. The same applies to the Bodhisattva and Tantric vows.

If we take the Pratimoksha vows before developing renunciation our vows are not actual but provisional Pratimoksha vows. If we subsequently listen to, contemplate, and meditate on the stages of the path we shall develop the realisation of renunciation. When this happens, our provisional Pratimoksha vows are transformed into real Pratimoksha vows.

Geshe Potawa used to say ‘Dromtonpa is my ordaining Abbot’. Since Dromtonpa was a layman he could not actually be an ordaining Abbot. Geshe Potawa was implying that it was due to Dromtonpa’s guidance that he developed the realisation of renunciation and thus transformed his provisional monk’s vows into real ones.

Through this we can understand clearly how important it is for those who have received the Pratimoksha, Bodhisattva, and Tantric vows to practise Lamrim. If we neglect the practice of Lamrim it is almost impossible these days for us to keep our vows purely without breaking them.

Source: Joyful Path of Good Fortune: the Complete Buddhist Path to Enlightenment, pp. 368-369

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2 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. I am so glad this site is giving us infor into so many subjects which help us remove confusion and doubts.

    I used to think NKT was deviating from Vinaya rules and did not receive a satisfactory explanation from anyone. I thought maybe it is just to make it easier for Westerners to become ordained . I think what is written here makes sense. It is really not about the numbers of vows. If 10 vows can serve the same purpose as a couple of hundreds due to its more comprehensive and deeper meanings , there is no issue.

    To me, this is like the Sutric tradition where there are different lengths of , say the Heart Sutra , where the essence is the same whether it is written in the long or shorter version.

  2. Is this an NKT-site?

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