Click here return to the Hualin main page.

Click here return to the Hualin E-Journal Vol 5.1 Table of Contents page.


Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies 5.1 (2022): 313–333;
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Text and Image & Buddhist Biography)

Download full text PDF


The Monk Mūlaphalguna and the Nuns: Biography as Criticism

University of California, Los Angeles

Abstract: Most of the monks that cause trouble in vinaya texts are either nameless or members of the Group-of-Six. Those in the first category are almost certainly literary fictions and were not historical people, and the same is being more and more suggested for those in the second category as well: each member of the Group appears to be a literary creation meant to embody or stand for one or another common monastic failing or fault—over eating, acquisitiveness, lasciviousness, etc. This paper will focus on another named figure who appears to have been a literary device used to criticize the practices of nuns that some monks did not approve of. His biography seems to have no other purpose than to represent nuns in an unfavorable light, as head-strong and overwrought. His name was Mūlaphalguna.

Keywords: Mūlaphalguna, Vinaya literature, Indian Buddhism, monastic regulation


About the Author: Gregory Schopen is an Emeritus Distinguished Professor at UCLA. His work focuses on Indian Buddhist monastic life. By looking beyond canonical materials in favour of less commonly used sources such as Indian Buddhist stone inscriptions, his numerous scholarly works have shifted the field away from Buddhism as portrayed through its own doctrines toward a more realistic picture of the actual lives of Buddhists, lives that were (and remain) deeply intertwined with the economic sphere. In 1985 he received the MacArthur Grant for his work in the field of History of Religion. In 2015 he was also elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.