Early Buddhist schools


Early Buddhist schools

The Early Buddhist schools are those schools into which, according to most scholars, the Buddhist monastic Sangha initially split, due originally to differences in Vinaya, and later also due to doctrinal differences and geographical separateness of groups of monks.

The original Sangha split into the first early schools (commonly believed to be the Sthaviravadins and the Mahasanghikas) a significant number of years (at least 100) after the death of Gautama Buddha.Fact|date=February 2007 Later, these first early schools split into further divisions such as the Sarvastivadins and the Dharmaguptakas, and ended up numbering, traditionally, about 18 or 20 schools. In fact, there are several overlapping lists of 18 schools preserved in the Buddhist tradition, totalling about twice as many, though some may be alternative names. It is thought likely that the number is merely conventional.

The arising of the Mahayana school of Buddhism (1st / 2nd century CE) went together with the writing of the new Mahayana Sutras, which introduced new philosophies such as the Bodhisattva. The supposed philosophy or attitude that according to the Mahayana unites the separate early schools was called Hinayana, a derogatory and offensive term.

The schools sometimes split over ideological differences concerning the 'real' meaning of teachings in the Suttapitaka, and sometimes over disagreement concerning the proper observance of vinaya. These ideologies became embedded in large works such as the Abhidhammas and commentaries. When comparing the existing versions of the Suttapitakas of various sects, there is some evidence that ideologies from the Abhidhammas sometimes found their way back into the Suttapitakas, to support the statements made in those Abhidhammas.

Developments in History

The First Council

Three months after the passing of Gautama Buddha, according to the scriptures, the First Council was held at Rajagaha by some of his disciples who had attained Arahantship (Enlightenment). At this point, Theravada tradition maintains that no conflict about what the Buddha taught is to have occurred, and the teachings were divided into various parts and each was assigned to an elder and his pupils to commit to memory. However, the accounts of the Council in the scriptures of different schools differ as to what was actually recited at the Council.

Venerable Purāṇa is recorded as having said: "Your reverences, well chanted by the elders are the Dhamma and Vinaya, but in that way that I heard it in the Lord's presence, that I received it in his presence, in that same way will I bear it in mind." ["Vinaya-pitaka": "Cullavagga" XI:1:11] . Some scholars consider this council fictitious. [Williams, "Mahayana Buddhism", Routledge, 1989, page 6]

The Second Council

The Second Council did not cause a split in the Sangha, as is sometimes believed to be the case. The Second Council was strictly about the misbehavior of a group of monks, who changed their behaviors after the council.

Period between the Second and Third Council

Most scholars believe that the first split occurred between the second and third council, and was probably about monastic discipline. Generally, it is believed that the first split was between the Sthaviravada and the Mahasanghika. However, after this initial division, more were to follow.

Third Council under Asoka

Tradition mostly says Buddhism split into 18 schools, but different sources give different lists, and scholars conclude that the number is merely conventional.

In the 3rd century BCE, Theravadin sources state that a Third Council was convened under the patronage of Emperor Ashoka, but no mention of this council is found in other sources . [Macmillan "Encyclopedia of Buddhism"] Some scholars argue that there are certain implausible features of the Theravada account which imply that the Third Council was ahistorical. The remainder consider it a purely Theravada/Vibhajjavada council. It is generally accepted, however, that one or several disputes did occur during Asoka's reign, involving both doctrinal and vinaya matters, although these may have been too informal to be called a Council. The "Sthavira" School had, by the time of King Ashoka divided into three sub-schools, doctrinally speaking, but these did not become separate monastic orders until later.

According to the Theravadin account, this Council was convened primarily for the purpose of establishing an official orthodoxy. At the council, small groups raised questions about the specifics of the vinaya and the interpretation of doctrine. The chairman of the council, Moggaliputta Tissa, compiled a book called the "Kathavatthu", which was meant to refute these arguments. The council sided with Moggaliputta and his version of Buddhism as orthodox; it was then adopted by Emperor Ashoka as his empire's official religion. This school of thought was termed "Vibhajjavada" (Pali), literally "thesis of [those who make] a distinction" as to the existence of dhammas in the past, future and / or present. The version of the scriptures that had been established at the Third Council, including the vinaya, sutta and the abhidhamma (collectively known as Tripitaka), was taken to Sri Lanka by Emperor Ashoka's son, the Venerable Mahinda. There it was eventually committed to writing in the Pali language. The Pali Canon remains the most complete set of Nikaya scriptures to survive, although the greater part of the Sarvāstivādin canon survives in Chinese translation, some parts exist in Tibetan translations, and some fragments exist in Sanskrit manuscripts, while parts of various canons (sometimes unidentified), exist in Chinese and fragments in other Indian dialects.

Developments during and after the Third Council

Whatever might be the truth behind the Theravādin account, it was around the time of Asoka that further divisions began to occur within the Buddhist movement and a number of additional schools emerged, including the Sarvāstivāda and the Sammitīya. All of these early schools of Nikayan Buddhism eventually came to be known collectively as the Eighteen Schools in later sources. Unfortunately, with the exception of the Theravāda, none of early these schools survived beyond the late medieval period by which time several were already long extinct, although a considerable amount of the canonical literature of some of these schools has survived, mainly in Chinese translation. Moreover, the origins of specifically Mahāyāna doctrines may be discerned in the teachings of some of these early schools, in particular in the Mahāsānghika and the Sarvāstivāda.

During and after the Third Council, elements of the Sthavira group called themselves "Vibhajjavadins". One part of this group was transmitted to Sri Lanka and to certain areas of southern India, such as Vanavasi in the south-west and the Kañci region in the south-east. This group later ceased to refer to themselves specifically as Vibhajjavadins, but reverted to calling themselves Theriyas, after the earlier Theras or "Sthaviras". Still later, at some point prior to the Dipavamsa (4th century), the Pali name "Theravāda" was adopted and has remained in use ever since for this group.

The Pudgalavādins were also known as Vatsiputrīyas after their putative founder, though this group later became known as the Sammitīya school, after one of its subdivisions, though it died out around the 9th or 10th century CE. Nevertheless, during most of the early medieval period, the Sammitīya school was numerically the largest Buddhist group in India, with more followers than all the other schools combined. The "Sarvāstivādin" school was most prominent in the north-west of India and provided some of the doctrines that would later be adopted by the Mahāyana. Another group linked to Sarvāstivāda was the Sautrāntika school, which only recognized the authority of the sutras and rejected the Abhidharma transmitted and taught by the "Vaibhāsika" wing of Sarvāstivāda. Based on textual considerations, it has been suggested that the Sautrāntikas were actually adherents of Mūla-Sarvāstivāda. The relation between Sarvāstivāda and Mūla-Sarvāstivāda is unclear.

Between the 1st century BCE and the 1st century CE, the terms Mahayana and Hinayana were first used in writing, in, for example, the Lotus Sutra.

The Chinese Pilgrims

During the first millennium, monks from China such as Faxian, Yijing and Xuanzang made pilgrimages to India and wrote accounts of their travels when they returned home. These Chinese travel records constitute extremely valuable sources for information concerning the state of Buddhism in India during the early medieval period.

By the time the Chinese Pilgrims Xuanzang and Yi Jing visited India in the medieval period there were five early buddhist schools that they mention far more frequently than others.

Early Sectarian Divisions

Some of the lists that are available concerning the early Buddhist schools are mentioned below.

Eighteen schools

The exact lineages of the different schools is complex. Different traditions and scholarship hold to different views. Sometimes the same school may be referred to under different names; or different schools might bear the same name. In many cases, the different 'schools' may be just regional variants without serious doctrinal divergences. Hence, the following listing is not 'set in stone':

*Sthaviravāda
**Pudgalavāda ('Personalist') (c. 280 BCE)
***Vatsīputrīya (under Aśoka) later name: Saṃmitīya
***Dharmottarīya
***Bhadrayānīya
***Sannāgarika
**Vibhajjavāda (prior to 240 BCE; during Aśoka)
***Mahīśāsaka (after 232 BCE)
***Kāśyapīya (after 232 BCE)
***Dharmaguptaka (after 232 BCE)
***Theravāda (c. 240 BCE)
**Sarvāstivāda (c. 237 BCE)
***Mūlasarvāstivāda (third and fourth centuries)
***Sautrāntika (between 50 BCE and c. 100 CE)
*IAST|Mahāsaṃghika ('Majority', c. 380 BCE)
**Ekavyahārikas (under Aśoka)
**Lokottaravāda
**Gokulika (during Aśoka)
**Bahuśrutīya (late third century BCE)
**Prajñaptivāda (late third century BCE)
**Cetiyavāda
**Caitika (mid-first century BCE)
**Apara Śaila
**Uttara Śaila

Nikaya Schools according to Sri Lanka Theravadin chronicles

This list was taken from Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa.

*Sthaviravāda/Vibhajjavāda/Theravāda
** - First schism
*** - Third schism
**** - Forth schism
***** - Fifth schism
****** - Sixth Schism
*** - Third schism
** - First schism
*** - Second schism
*** - Second schism
*** - Second schism
***IAST|Saṃmitīya - Second schism
*IAST|Mahāsaṃghika
** - First schism
*** - Second schism
*** - Second schism
** - First schism
** - Third schism; According to Dipavamsa, but in the Mahavamsa it is said to have arisen from the Pannati and Bahussutaka)

In addition, the Dipavamsa lists the following six schools without identifying the schools from which they arose:
* Hemavatika (Sanskrit: Haimavata)
* Rajagiriya
* Siddhatthaka
* Pubbaseliya
* Aparaseliya (Sanskrit: Aparasaila)
* Apararajagirika

Nikaya Schools according to Sarvastivadin chronicles

This list was taken from Samayabhedo Paracana Cakra, the author was Vasumitra a Sarvastivadin monk.

*Sthaviravāda
**Haimavata - First schism; referred by Sarvastivadins as the ‘original Sthavira School’, but this school only influential in the north of India.
**Sarvāstivāda - First schism
***Vatsīputrīya - Second schism
****Dharmottarīya - Third schism
****Bhadrayānīya - Third schism
****IAST|Saṃmitīya - Third schism
****Sannāgarika - Third schism
***Mahīśāsaka- Forth schism
****Dharmaguptaka - Fifth schism
***Kāśyapīya - Sixth schism
***Sautrāntika - Seventh Schism
*IAST|Mahāsaṃghika
**Ekavyahārikas - First schism
**Lokottaravāda - First schism
**Kaukutika - First schism
**Bahuśrutīya - Second schism
**Prajñaptivāda - Third schism
**Caitika - Forth schism
**Apara Śaila - Forth schism
**Uttara Śaila - Forth schism

Twenty schools according to Mahayana scriptures in Chinese

Sthaviravada (上座部) was split into 11 sects. These were:

:Sarvastivadin (説一切有部), Haimavata (雪山部), Vatsiputriya (犢子部), Dharmottara (法上部), Bhadrayaniya (賢冑部), Sammitiya (正量部), Channagirika (密林山部), Mahisasaka (化地部), Dharmaguptaka (法蔵部), Kasyapiya (飲光部), Sautrāntika (経量部).

Sthaviravada─┬─ Haimavata──────────────────────────────────────────── └─ Sarvastivadin─┬─────────────────────────────────── ├ Vatsiputriya ─┬──────────────────── │ ├ Dharmottara─────── │ ├ Bhadrayaniya───── │ ├ Sammitiya──────── │ └ Channagirika───── ├ Mahisasaka─┬───────────────────── │ └ Dharmaguptaka────── └ Kasyapiya──────────────────────── └ Sautrāntika──────────────────────

Mahasanghika (大衆部) was split into 9 sects. There were::Ekavyaharaka (一説部), Lokottaravadin (説出世部), Kaukkutika (鶏胤部), Bahussrutiya (多聞部), Prajnaptivada (説仮部), Caitika (制多山部), Aparasaila (西山住部), Uttarasaila (北山住部).

Mahasanghika─┬──────────────────────┬───── ├ EkavyaharakaCaitikaLokottaravadinAparasailaKaukkutikaUttarasailaBahussrutiyaPrajnaptivada

Legacy

The Theravāda School of Sri Lanka, Burma, and Thailand is descended from the "Sthaviravādin" and (more specifically) the Vibhajjavada School. It underwent two more changes of name in the mean time. In the Indian accounts it is sometimes called the Tāmraparnīya (translation: Sri Lankan lineage), but there is no indication that this referred to any change in doctrine or scripture, while it is very obvious that it refers to geographical location. At some point prior to the Dipavamsa (4th century) the name was changed to Theravada, probably to reemphasize the relationship to the original Sthaviravada, which is the Sanskrit version of the Pali term Theravada.

The Theravada school is the only remaining school which is exclusively aligned with the philosophic outlook of the early schools. However, significant variation is found between the various Theravadin communities, usually concerning the strictness of practice of Vinaya and the attitude one has towards Abhidhamma. Both these, however, are aspects of the Vibhajjavadin recension of the Tipitaka, and the variation between current Theravada groups is mainly a reflection of accent or emphasis, not content of the Tipitaka or the commentaries. The Tipitaka of the Theravada and the main body of its commentaries are believed to come from (or be heavily influenced by) the Sthaviravadins and especially the subsequent Vibhajjavadins.

The legacies of other early schools are preserved in various Mahayana traditions. All of the schools of Tibetan Buddhism use a Mulasarvastivada vinaya and study the Sarvastivadin abhidharma, supplemented with Mahayana and Vajrayana texts. Chinese schools use the vinaya from the Dharmagupta school, and have versions of those of other schools also. Fragments of the canon of texts from these schools also survive such as the Mahavastu of the Mahāsānghika School.

See also

* Schools of Buddhism
* Atthakavagga and Parayanavagga
* Buddhist Councils
* History of Buddhism
* Nikaya Buddhism
* Rhinoceros Sutra
* Timeline of Buddhism

References

*cite book | author=Coogan, Michael D. (ed.) | title=The Illustrated Guide to World Religions | publisher=Oxford University Press | year=2003 | id=ISBN 1-84483-125-6
*
*cite book | author=Gethin, Rupert | title=Foundations of Buddhism | publisher=Oxford University Press | year=1998 | id=ISBN 0-19-289223-1
*cite book | author=Gunaratana, Bhante Henepola | title=Mindfulness in Plain English | publisher=Wisdom Publications | year=2002 | id=ISBN 0-86171-321-4
*cite book | author=Lowenstein, Tom | title=The vision of the Buddha | publisher=Duncan Baird Publishers | year=1996 | id=ISBN 1-903296-91-9
* ISBN 0-7679-0369-2.
*cite book | author=Thurman, Robert A. F. (translator) | title=Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti: Mahayana Scripture | publisher=Pennsylvania State University Press | year=1976 | id=ISBN 0-271-00601-3
* ISBN 0-8021-3031-3.
*cite book | author=Yamamoto, Kosho (translation), revised and edited by Dr. Tony Page | title=The Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra| publisher=(Nirvana Publications 1999-2000)
* ISBN 0-86171-133-5.

External links

* [http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-ENG/tw.htm The Sects of the Buddhists] . Rhys Davids. T. W.. The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1891. pp.409-422
* [http://sectsandsectarianism.googlepages.com/home Sects & Sectarianism - The origins of Buddhist Schools]


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