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   Buddhist Writings.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
III. The Order
 
The Admission and Ordination Ceremonies
 
Reprinted from a paper by J.F. Dickson, B. A., in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society for 1874
 
 
IN May, 1872, I was invited by my learned friend and pandit Kewitiygala Unnnse, of the Malwatte Monastery in Kandy, to be present at an ordination service, held, according to custom, on the full-moon day of Wesak, (May, June), being the anniversary of the day on which Gautama Buddha attained Nirvna, B. C. 543. I gladly availed myself of this opportunity of witnessing the celebration of a rite of which Englishmen have but little knowledge, and which has rarely, if ever, been witnessed by any European in Ceylon.  1
  Nothing could be more impressive than the order and solemnity of the proceedings. It was impossible not to feel that the ceremony was being conducted precisely as it was more than two thousand years ago.  2
  The chapter house (Sinhalese, Poya-ge) is an oblong hall, with rows of pillars forming an inner space and leaving broad aisles at the sides. At the top of this inner space sat the aged Abbot (Sinhalese, Maha Nyaka), as president of the chapter; on either side of him sat the elder priests, and down the sides sat the other priests in number between thirty and forty. The chapter or assembly thus formed three sides of an oblong. The president sat on cushions and a carpet; the other priests sat on mats covered with white calico. They all sat cross-legged. On the fourth side, at the foot, stood the candidates, behind the pillars on the right stood the deacons, the left was given up to the visitors, and behind the candidates at the bottom was a crowd of Buddhist laymen.  3
  To form a chapter for this purpose not less than ten duly ordained priests are required, and the president must be not less than ten years’ standing from his Upasampad ordination. The priests attending the chapter are required to give their undivided, unremitting, and devout attention throughout the service. Every priest is instructed to join heart and mind in the exhortations, responses, formulas, etc., and to correct every error, lest the oversight of a single mistake should vitiate the efficacy of the rite. Previously to the ordination the candidates are subjected to a strict and searching examination as to their knowledge of the discourses of Buddha, the duties of a priest, etc. An examination and ordination is held on the full-moon day in Wesak, and on the three succeeding Poya days, or days of quarters of the moon.  4
  After witnessing the celebration of this rite, I read the Upasampad-Kammavc or book setting forth the form and manner of ordering of priests and deacons, and I was subsequently induced to translate it. This manual was translated into Italian in 1776, by Padre Maria Percoto (missionary in Ava and Pegu), under the title of “Kammuva, ossia trattato della ordinazione dei Talapoini del secondo ordine detti Pinzi,” and a portion of it was edited in 1841, in Pli and Latin, by Professor Spiegel. Clough translated it in 1834, and Hardy has given an interesting summary of it in his Eastern Monarchism; but neither the text nor any complete translation is readily accessible, and I have therefore thought that this edition might possibly be acceptable to those who desire information respecting the practice of Buddhism in Ceylon, where, as is well pointed out by Mr. Childers, in his Pli Dictionary, (s.v. Nibbnam, p. 272, note), “Buddhism retains almost its pristine purity.”  5
  With regard to the transliteration, I have used the system adopted (after Fausboll) by Mr. Childers in his Dictionary. In the translation I have placed in italics the rubrical directions in the text, and all explanations and amplifications of the text I have placed in square brackets. I have thus endeavoured to give a translation of the text as it stands, and, at the same time, to set out the ordination service fully and completely, precisely in the form in use in Ceylon at the present time, as I have myself witnessed it. No one who compares this form with that given in Article XV. of Hodgson’s “Literature and Religion of the Buddhists in Nepaul,” can fail to be struck with the purity and simplicity of the Ceylon rite as contrasted with that in use among the Northern Buddhists.
  KANDY, 9th January, 1873.
J. F. D.
  6
 
THE ORDINATION SERVICE
Praise be to the Blessed One, the Holy One, to him who has arrived at the knowledge of all Truth

  [The candidate, accompanied by his Tutor, in the dress of a layman, but having the yellow robes of a priest in his arms, makes the usual obeisance and offering to the President of the chapter, and standing says,]
  7
  Grant me leave to speak. Lord graciously grant me admission to deacon’s orders. Kneels down. Lord, I pray for admission as a deacon. Again, lord, I pray for admission as a deacon. A third time, lord, I pray for admission as a deacon. In compassion for me, lord, take these yellow robes, and let me be ordained, in order to the destruction of all sorrow, and in order to the attainment of Nirvna. To be repeated three times. [The President takes the bundle of robes.] In compassion for me, lord, give me those yellow robes, and let me be ordained, in order to the destruction of all sorrow, and in order to the attainment of Nirvna. To be repeated three times. [And the President then gives the bundle of robes, the yellow band of which he ties round the neck of the candidate, reciting the while the tacapañcakam, or formula of meditation on the perishable nature of the human body, as follows: kes lom nakh dant taco—taco dant nakh lom kes. Hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin—skin, teeth, nails, hair of the body, hair of the head. The candidate then rises up, and retires to throw off the dress of a layman, and to put on his yellow robes. While changing his dress he recites the following: In wisdom I put on the robes, as a protection against cold, as a protection against heat, as a protection against gadflies and musquitoes, wind and sun, and the touch of serpents, and to cover nakedness, i. e. I wear them in all humility, for use only, and not for ornament or show. Having put on the yellow robes, he returns to the side of his tutor, and says,] Grant me leave to speak. I make obeisance to my lord. Lord, forgive me all my faults. Let the merit that I have gained be shared by my lord. It is fitting to give me to share in the merit gained by my lord. It is good, it is good. I share in it. Grant me leave to speak. Graciously give me, lord, the three refuges and the precepts. [He kneels down.] Lord, I pray for the refuges and the precepts.  8
  [The tutor gives the three refuges and the ten precepts as follows, the candidate still kneeling, and repeating them after him sentence by sentence.
        
I
THE THREE REFUGES
I put my trust in Buddha.
I put my trust in the Law.
I put my trust in the Priesthood.
Again I put my trust in Buddha.
Again I put my trust in the Law.
Again I put my trust in the Priesthood.
Once more I put my trust in Buddha.
Once more I put my trust in the Law.
Once more I put my trust in the Priesthood.
 
II
THE TEN PRECEPTS OR LAWS OF THE PRIESTHOOD
Abstinence from destroying life;
Abstinence from theft;
Abstinence from fornication and all uncleanness;
Abstinence from lying;
Abstinence from fermented liquor, spirits and strong drink which are a hindrance to merit;
Abstinence from eating at forbidden times;
Abstinence from dancing, singing, and shows;
Abstinence from adorning and beautifying the person by the use of garlands, perfumes and unguents;
Abstinence from using a high or a large couch or seat;
Abstinence from receiving gold and silver;
          are the ten means (of leading a moral life).
  9
  [The candidate says,]  10
  I have received these ten precepts. Permit me. [He rises up, and makes obeisance to his Tutor.] Lord, I make obeisance. Forgive me all my faults. May the merit I have gained be shared by my lord. Give me to share in the merit of my lord. It is good, it is good. I share in it.  11
  [This completes the ordination of a deacon, and the candidate retires.]  12
 
  The foregoing ceremony is gone through previous to the ordination of a priest in all cases, even where the candidate has already been admitted as a deacon. If the candidate is duly qualified for the priestly office, he can proceed at once from deacon’s to priest’s orders; otherwise he must pass a term of instruction as a deacon: but a candidate who has received deacon’s orders must solicit them again, and go through the above ceremony when presented for priest’s orders.  13
  The candidate being duly qualified, returns with his tutor, and goes up to the President of the chapter, presenting an offering, and makes obeisance, saying,]  14
  Permit me to speak. Lord, graciously grant me your sanction and support. He kneels down. Lord, I pray for your sanction and support; a second time, lord, I pray for your sanction and support; a third time, lord, I pray for your sanction and support. Lord, be my superior. This is repeated three times. [The President says,] It is well. [And the candidate replies,] I am content. This is repeated three times. From this day forth my lord is my charge. I am charge to my lord. [This vow of mutual assistance] is repeated three times.  15
  [The candidate rises up, makes obeisance, and retires alone to the foot of the assembly, where his alms-bowl is strapped on his back. His tutor then goes down, takes him by the hand, and brings him back, placing him in front of the President. One of the assembled priests stands up, and places himself on the other side of the candidate, who thus stands between two tutors. The tutors say to the assembly,] With your permission, [and then proceed to examine the candidate as to his fitness to be admitted to priest’s orders]. Your name is Nga? It is so, lord. Your superior is the venerable Tissa? It is so, lord. [The two tutors together say,] Praise be to the Blessed One, the Holy One, to him who has arrived at the knowledge of all Truth. [They then recite the following commands of Buddha.] First it is right to appoint a superior. When the superior has been appointed, it is right to inquire whether the candidate has alms-bowl and robes [which they do as follows]. Is this your alms-bowl? It is so, lord. Is this the stole? It is so, lord. Is this the upper robe? It is so, lord. Is this the under robe? It is so, lord. Go and stand there. [The candidate here retires, going backwards in a reverential posture, and stands at the lower corner of the assembly. The tutors remain in front of the President, and one of them says,] Priests, hear me. The candidate desires ordination under the venerable Tissa. Now is the time of the assembly of priests. I will instruct the candidate. [The tutors make obeisance to the President, and go down to the foot of the assembly, and join the candidate, whom they instruct and examine as follows.] Listen, Nga. This is the time for you to speak the truth, to state what has occurred. When asked concerning anything in the midst of the assembly, if it be true, it is meet to say so; if it be not true, it is meet to say that it is not. Do not hesitate. Conceal nothing. They inquire of the candidate as follows. Have you any such diseases as these? Leprosy? No, lord. Boils? No, lord. Itch? No, lord. Asthma? No, lord. Epilepsy? No, lord. Are you a human being? Yes, lord. Are you a male? Yes, lord. Are you a free man? Yes, lord. Are you free from debt? Yes, lord. Are you exempt from military service? Yes, lord. Have you come with the permission of your parents? Yes, lord. Are you of the full age of twenty years? Yes, lord. Are your alms-bowl and robes complete? Yes, lord. What is your name? Lord, I am called Nga. What is the name of your superior? Lord, my superior is called the venerable Tissa. [The two tutors here go to the top of the assembly, and make obeisance to the President, and one of them says,] Priests, hear me. The candidate desires ordination under the venerable Tissa. He has been duly instructed by me. Now is the time of the assembly of priests. If the candidate is here, it is right to tell him to approach. [One of the tutors says.] Come hither. [The candidate comes up, and stands between the tutors, makes obeisance to the assembly, and kneels down.] Priests, I ask the assembly for ordination. Priests, have compassion on me, and lift me up. A second time, lords, I ask the assembly for ordination; lords, have compassion on me, and lift me up. A third time, lords, I ask the assembly for ordination. Lords, have compassion on me, and lift me up. [The candidate rises up, and makes obeisance. The tutors say,] Priests, hear me. This candidate desires ordination under the venerable Tissa. Now is the time of the assembly of priests. I will examine the candidate respecting the disqualifications for the priestly office. Listen, Nga, This is the time for you to speak the truth, to state what has occurred. I will inquire of you concerning facts. If a thing is, it is right to say it is; if a thing is not, it is right to say it is not. Have you any such diseases as these? Leprosy? No, lord. Boils? No, lord. Itch? No, lord. Asthma? No, lord. Epilepsy? No, lord. Are you a human being? Yes, lord. Are you a male? Yes, lord. Are you free from debt? Yes, lord. Are you exempt from military service? Yes, lord. Have you come with the permission of your parents? Yes, lord. Are you of the full age of twenty years? Yes, lord. Are your alms-bowl and robes complete? Yes, lord. What is your name? Lord, I am called Nga. What is the name of your superior? My superior, lord, is called the venerable Tissa. [Here ends the examination in the midst of the assembly, and one of the tutors reports the result as follows:] This candidate desires ordination under the venerable Tissa. He is free from disqualifications. He has his alms-bowl and robes complete. The candidate asks the assembly for ordination under his superior the venerable Tissa. The assembly gives the candidate ordination under his superior the venerable Tissa. If any of the venerable assembly approves the ordination of the candidate under the venerable Tissa, let him be silent; if any objects, let him speak. A second time I state this matter. Priests, hear me. This candidate desires ordination under the venerable Tissa. He is free from disqualifications for the priestly office. His alms-bowl and robes are complete. The candidate asks the priesthood for ordination under his superior the venerable Tissa. The assembly gives the candidate ordination under his superior the venerable Tissa. If any of the venerable assembly approve the ordination of the candidate under his superior the venerable Tissa, let him be silent; if any objects, let him speak. A third time I state this matter. Priests, listen. This candidate desires ordination under the venerable Tissa. He is free from disqualifications for the priestly office. His alms-bowl and robes are complete. The candidate asks the priesthood for ordination under his superior the venerable Tissa. The assembly gives the candidate ordination under his superior the venerable Tissa. If any of the venerable assembly approves the ordination of the candidate under his superior the venerable Tissa, let him be silent; if any objects, let him speak. [The two tutors here again make obeisance to the President, and say,] The candidate has received ordination from the priesthood under his superior the venerable Tissa. The assembly approves the resolution: therefore it keeps silence. So I understand your wish.  16
 

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