- Early Buddhist schools
The Early Buddhist schools are those schools into which, according to most scholars, the Buddhist monastic
Sanghainitially 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
Sthaviravadinsand 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
Mahayanaschool 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 Ashokadivided 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 Lankaby Emperor Ashoka's son, the Venerable Mahinda. There it was eventually committed to writingin the Pali language. The Pali Canonremains the most complete set of Nikayascriptures 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
Sarvāstivādaand 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 Mahāsānghikaand 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.
Pudgalavādins were also known as Vatsiputrīyas after their putative founder, though this group later became known as the Sammitīyaschool, 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 Sautrāntikaschool, which only recognized the authority of the sutras and rejected the Abhidharmatransmitted 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.
1st century BCEand the 1st century CE, the terms Mahayanaand Hinayanawere first used in writing, in, for example, the Lotus Sutra.
The Chinese Pilgrims
first millennium, monks from China such as Faxian, Yijing and Xuanzangmade 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
Xuanzangand 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.
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':
**Pudgalavāda ('Personalist') (c. 280 BCE)
***Vatsīputrīya (under Aśoka) later name: Saṃmitīya
**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)
**Gokulika (during Aśoka)
third century BCE)
third century BCE)
Caitika(mid- first century BCE)
Nikaya Schools according to Sri Lanka Theravadin chronicles
This list was taken from
** - First schism
*** - Third schism
**** - Forth schism
***** - Fifth schism
****** - Sixth Schism
*** - Third schism
** - First schism
*** - Second schism
*** - Second schism
*** - Second schism
***IAST|Saṃmitīya - Second schism
** - 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
Dipavamsalists the following six schools without identifying the schools from which they arose:
* Hemavatika (Sanskrit: Haimavata)
* Aparaseliya (Sanskrit: Aparasaila)
Nikaya Schools according to Sarvastivadin chronicles
This list was taken from Samayabhedo Paracana Cakra, the author was
Vasumitraa Sarvastivadin monk.
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
**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─┬──────────────────────┬───── ├ Ekavyaharaka├ Caitika├ Lokottaravadin├ Aparasaila├ Kaukkutika└ Uttarasaila├ Bahussrutiya└ Prajnaptivada
The Theravāda School of
Sri Lanka, Burma, and Thailandis descended from the "Sthaviravādin" and (more specifically) the VibhajjavadaSchool. 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 Sanskritversion of the Paliterm 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
Tipitakaof the Theravada and the main body of its commentaries are believed to come from (or be heavily influenced by) the Sthaviravadinsand especially the subsequent Vibhajjavadins.
The legacies of other early schools are preserved in various Mahayana traditions. All of the schools of
Tibetan Buddhismuse a Mulasarvastivada vinayaand study the Sarvastivadin abhidharma, supplemented with Mahayana and Vajrayana texts. Chinese schools use the vinaya from the Dharmaguptaschool, 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 MahāsānghikaSchool.
Schools of Buddhism
Atthakavagga and Parayanavagga
History of Buddhism
Timeline of Buddhism
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* [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,
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