Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 940,961 words

This page describes “notes on the second buddhist council” as written by Nagarjuna in his Maha-prajnaparamita-sastra (lit. “the treatise on the great virtue of wisdom”) in the 2nd century. This book, written in five volumes, represents an encyclopedia on Buddhism as well as a commentary on the Pancavimsatisahasrika Prajnaparamita.

Appendix 2 - Notes on the second Buddhist council

An allusion to the second Buddhist Council and to the first doctrinal schism that ended in the formation of two separate schools, that of the Sthāvirya and that of the Mahāsāṃghika. The Mppś is strictly dependent upon the Kashmir tradition represented by:

1) the Mahāvibhāṣā, T 1545, k. 99, p.510c–512a.

2) Vasumitra’s Samayabhedaparacanacakra, T 2031, p. 15a–b (tr. J. Masuda, in Asia Major, II, 1925, p. 14–15): T 2032, p. 17b–c; T 2033, p. 20a–b.

3) Paramārtha’s commentary on the preceding treatise, a commentary extracts of which are incorporated into the San louen hiuan yi by Ki tsang (T 1852, p. 8b–c} and the Sanrongengi keṅyūshū by Chūkan (T 2300, p. 455b–456b) and translated by P. Demiéville, L’origine des sectes bouddhiques, MCB, I, 1931–32, p.30–40.

4) the Si yi ki by Hiuan tsang (T 2087, k. 3, p.886b; tr. Beal, I, p. 150–151; tr. Watters, Travels, I, p. 267–269, which is inspired directly by the Mahāvibhāṣā.

P. Demiéville has summarized this tradition: “It was only in the time of the second Council, held at Pātaliputra in the 116th year after the nirvāṇa, in the reign of king Aśoka, that the controversies provoked by the heresiarch Mahādeva caused a real doctrinal schism that resulted in the formation of two separate schools, the school of the Elders (Stḥāvirya) and the school of the Great Assembly (Mahāsāṃghika). Mahādeva’s heresy was twofold: on the one hand, he claimed to incorporate into the three baskets the sūtras of the Greater Vehicle, and on the other hand, he professed five theses tending to concede to the saints, arhats or srotaāpanna, various imperfections such as the faculty of being physically tainted, doubt, a certain ignorance, etc… According to the Mahāvibhāṣā, the argument was decided by Aśoka in favor of Mahādeva. Paramārtha seems to wish to spare the memory of the pious monarch; according to him, it was the queen, circumvented by her lover Mahādeva, who had the adversaries of the heresiarch thrown into the Ganges. But the latter, using their magical powers, fled to Kashmir, where the king soon had them sought out. According to the Vibhāṣā, they refused to leave Kashmir (where, later on, according to a tradition which is, however, debatable, the Vibhāṣā itself was composed). According to Paramārtha, they accepted Aśoka’s invitation and returned to Pātaliputra where, Mahādeva having died, the two schools came together for a new Council in order to purify the five famous theses. And it was then, Paramārtha tells us, that the real schism was produced and the two schools separated.

Bhavya’s Sde pa tha dad par ḥbyed pa saṅ rban par bśad pa (Bstan-ḥgyur, Mdo ḥgrel, XC, 12) tr. in Walleser, Sekten des alten Buddhismus, Heidelberg, 1927, p.78–93), tells of a twofold tradition: One Council regarding Mahādeva’s five points was held at Pātaliputra in the 137th year after the nirvāṇa, under kings Nanda and Mahāpadma, and ended in the splitting of the Sthaviras and the Mahāsāṃghikas (Walleser, p.81–82). – In the 160th year after the nirvāṇa, under the reign of Dharmāśoka in Pātaliputra, some arguments [on the five points of Mahādeva] provoked a schism in the community which divided the Mahasāṃghikas and the Sthaviras (ibid, p. 78).

The sources noted so far constitute a relatively homogeneous group that I [Lamotte] would like to call the Kashmir tradition. Deliberately or not, it seems to ignore another group of traditions related to the second Buddhist Council which was held at Vaiśālī in order to condemn ten innovations (dasa vatthūni) introduced into the disciplinary rule by the monks of Vaiśālī. The references gathered by W. Geiger in his introduction to the Mahāvaṃsa, p. LIV-LVI and by L. de La Vallée Poussin in ERE, IV, p. 179–185, art. Councils, are not sufficient to get an idea of the question. Here is a summary of the sources:

a. The Council of Vaiśālī took place in the 100th year after the nirvāṇa, according to the Pāli Vinaya, II, p. 294–307 (tr. Rh. D.- Oldenberg, III, p. 386–414; Muséon, 1905, p. 258–312); Wou fen liu, T 1421, k. 30, p. 192a–194b; Mo ho seng k’i liu, T 1425, k. 33, p. 493a-z (does not give the date); Sseu fen liu, T 1428, k. 54, p. 968c–971c; Samanatpāsikā (in Vinaya III, p. 294 sq, and the Chan kien liu p’i p’o cha, T 1462, k. 1, p. 677c); P’i ni mou king,T 1463, k. 4, p. 819b; Fa hien tchouan, T2085 (tr. Legge, p. 75).

b. The Council of Vaiśālī took place in the 110th year after the nirvāṇa according to the Che song liu, T 1435, k. 60–61, p. 450a-456b; Ken pen chou… tsa che, T 1451, k. 40, p. 411c–414b, with the Tibetan correspondent in Dulwa, XI, p. 323–330, of which there is a translation in Bu ston (Obermiller), II, p. 91–96; Tāranātha, p. 41–42 (who proposes different dates); Hiuan tsang, Si yu ki, T 2087, k. 7, p. 909b (tr. Beal, II, p. 74–75; tr. Watters, Travels, II, p. 73–77).

c. According to the Singhalese chronicles, the second Council was held at Vaiśālī in the 199th year after the nirvāṇa under the reign of Kālāśoka (Dīpavaṃsa, IV, v. 44, 47; Mahāvaṃsa, IV, v. 8) and according to the Dīpavaṃsa (V, v. 30–39), the Vṛjiputrakas who had been excommunicated at the Council, in their turn held a great assembly (mahāsaṃgīti) whence came the Mahāsāṃghika sect. – The Singhalese sources are also the only ones to note the existence of a third Council which was held at Pātaliputra under the chairmanship of Tissa Moggaliputta in the 236th year of the nirvāṇa (Dīpavaṃsa,VII, v, 34–59), which was the seventeenth year of Aśoka’s reign (Mahāvaṃsa, V, v. 280). Tissa had missionaries adopted by the Elders of Kathāvatthu (Dīpavaṃsa, VII, v. 41, 56–58; Mahāvaṃsa, V, v. 278) and sent them everywhere.

If the Kaśmirian tradition is compared with the traditions relating to the Council of Vaiśālī, it is seen that it has nothing in common with the sources enumerated under a. and b., but that it does have points in common with the Singhalese chronicles:

(1) The Singhalese chronicles give to Tissa Moggaliputta under Aśoka the same rôle that the Sanskrit Sarvāstivādin sources have Upagupta play under the great monarch (cf. LAV., Histoire, II, p. 137; Przyluski, Aśoka, s.v. Upagupta).

(2) The Tissa Moggaliputta of the Singhalese chronicles tried to make Aśoka believe that the Buddha was vibhajyavādin (Mahāvaṃsa, V, v. 271; Comm. of the Kathāvatthu in Aung, Points of Controversy, p. 7). The Vibhajyavāda, characteristic of the school of the Pāli language, is a philosophical position which, by subtle distinction, accepts the existence of a certain past, not of all the past; it is opposed to the Sarvāstivāda, characteristic of the school of the Sanskrit language, which accepts the existence of the three times, including the past. When the Sarvāstivādins in their Abhidharma discuss the existence of the three times, they have as adversary a certain vibhajyavādin called Maudgalyāyana (cf. LAV., La controverse du Temps et du Pudgala dans le Vijñānakāya, EA, I, p. 343). This Maudgalyāyana of the Sanskrit sources may be the Moggaliputta of the Pāli sources (cf. LAV., II, p. 138).

(3) The Singhalse chronicles list two councils under two different kings Aśoka: i) the Council of Vaiśālī followed, in the Dīpavaṃsa, by the Mahāsaṃgīti of the Vajjiputtakas under king Kālāśoka (in the 100th year of the nirvāṇa); ii) the Council of Pātaliputra under king Aśoka (in the 236th year of the nirvāṇa). – A part at least of the Kaśmirian tradition, that represented by Paramārtha’s commentary on Vasumitra’s treatise, also mentions two councils which took place under the same Aśoka, after the 100th year of the nirvāṇa: the council that took place before the departure of the 500 arhats for Kaśmir, and the one that took place after their return to Pātaliputra (cf. P. Demiéville, p. 21).

(4) The five points of Mahādeva expounded in the Kaśmir tradition are discussed in the Kathāvatthu, II, 1–6 (ed. Taylor, I, p. 163–204). Cf. L. de La Vallée Poussin, The Five Points of Mahādeva and the Kathāvatthu, JRAS, 1910, p. 313–423).