Pratimoksha vows

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The vows of pratimoksha (Skt. prātimokṣa-saṃvara; Tib. སོ་ཐར་གྱི་སྡོམ་པ་, sotar gyi dompa, Wyl. so thar gyi sdom pa) or vows of ‘individual liberation’ (Skt. pratimokṣa; Tib. སོ་སོར་ཐར་པ་, sosor tarpa, Wyl. so sor thar pa) mainly emphasize disciplining one’s physical behaviour and not harming others.

Pratimoksha discipline is called the foundation of Buddhism because for ordinary people physical discipline is the beginning of spiritual training and the basis of spiritual progress. The aspiration of the pure pratimoksha discipline is the achievement of liberation for oneself, as it belongs to the shravaka training. However, since Tibetan Buddhists are automatically followers of the Mahayana, they emphasize taking the pratimoksha vows with the attitude of bodhichitta.


There are seven types of pratimoksha vows, the vows of:

  1. a fully ordained monk (Skt. bhikṣu; Tib. དགེ་སློང་, gelong)
  2. a fully ordained nun (Skt. bhikṣuṇī; Tib. དགེ་སློང་མ་, gelongma)
  3. a novice monk (Skt. śrāmanera; Tib. དགེ་ཚུལ་, getsul)
  4. a novice nun (Skt. śrāmanerikā; Tib. དགེ་ཚུལ་མ་, getsulma)
  5. a female novice in training for full ordination (Skt. śikṣamāṇā; Tib. དགེ་སློབ་མ་, gé lobma)
  6. a male lay practitioner (Skt. upāsaka; Tib. དགེ་བསྙེན་, genyen)
  7. a female lay practitioner (Skt. upāsikā; Tib. དགེ་བསྙེན་མ་, genyenma)

There are sometimes said to be eight types of pratimoksha vows if you add the one day lay vows.

Further Reading

  • Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thayé, The Treasury of Knowledge, Book Five: Buddhist Ethics (Ithaca: Snow Lion, 1998, reedited 2003)
  • Lama Mipham's Commentary to Nagarjuna's Stanzas for a Novice Monk and Tsongkhapa's Essence of the Ocean of Vinaya, translated by Glen H. Mullin and Lobsang Rapgay (Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1978)
  • Ngari Panchen, Perfect Conduct: The Absolute Certainty of the Three Vows with commentary by Dudjom Rinpoche (Boston: Wisdom, 1996)
  • Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen, A Clear Differentiation of the Three Codes: Essential Distinctions among the Individual Liberation, Great Vehicle, and Tantric Systems, translated by Jared Rhoton (New York: SUNY, 2002)