Could you please explain the traditional vows in Buddhism?

I would like to know which are and their qualities according to Lord Buddha.

  • There are several sets of vows that one can take depending on which school of Buddhism and what level of commitment one has to the practice. In order to answer this question it would be better to narrow it down, and say which set of vows you wish to know more about
    – hellyale
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 19:55

2 Answers 2


I'm not sure.

In Theravada there are "precepts" (for laypeople) and "monastic rules" (for monks) but I'm not sure they're called "vows".

In this description of Theravada ordination (also here), the precepts are phrased as "I undertake to" which could be called a "vow", for example,

  1. Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
    (I undertake to abstain from harming or taking life).

So far as I have read, one requests ordination and the rules are recited. This might be described (in English) as "taking monastic vows", and a vow (to obey the rules) might be implicit in the ordination, but I don't see such a "vow" being spoken explicitly.

The term "vow" seems to be used more in Mahayana, for example:

  • Monastic vows (quoting from Ordination in the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition),

    His Holiness the Dalai Lama feels that it is important to know that nuns and monks ordained in the Tibetan tradition follow the vows set forth in the Mulasarvastivadin school of monastic codes. The gelong/gelongma (bhikshu/bhikshuni--the fully ordained monk/nun) level are recorded in the Mulasarvastivadin school's Individual Liberation Sutras. Interspersed throughout their Tibetan translation is an easy to remember set of chantable verses summarising the gelong or gelongma vows. These versified mnemonics are known as the "Interleaved Summaries of the Vinaya Discours".

  • Vajrayana vows (quoting from Samaya),

    The samaya (Tibetan: དམ་ཚིག, Wylie: dam tshig, Japanese and Chinese: 三昧耶戒, sanmaya-kai, Sānmóyéjiè), is a set of vows or precepts given to initiates of an esoteric Vajrayana Buddhist order as part of the abhiṣeka (empowerment or initiation) ceremony that creates a bond between the guru and disciple.

  • The Bodhisattva vow,

    The Bodhisattva vow is the vow taken by Mahayana Buddhists to attain complete enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. One who has taken the vow is nominally known as a Bodhisattva. Whereas the Prātimokṣa vows cease at death, the Bodhisattva vow extends into future lives.

  • 1
    Many Mahayana sutras have chapters where the main Bodhisattva makes a list vows, Medicine Buddha, Amida, Samantabhadra are good examples. Some of which can only be accomplished by a Bodhisattva, some are model goals for everyone. Commented Apr 17, 2016 at 17:47
  • You give an answer much like I was expecting. Can you tell me if the Theravada vows or precepts as you said, came from the Buddha himself or is it a posterior tradition?
    – Iacchus
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 12:53

There is nothing as Buddhist vows. But the conduct of Sila for a beginner can perhaps be similar to a vow.

Also see: Virtue: Sila

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