The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words

This page describes Eruption of A Great Dispute within The Sangha contained within the book called the Great Chronicle of Buddhas (maha-buddha-vamsa), a large compilation of stories revolving around the Buddhas and Buddhist disciples. This page is part of the series known as the Buddha’s Ninth Vassa at Kosambī. This great chronicle of Buddhas was compiled by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw who had a thorough understanding of the thousands and thousands of Buddhist teachings (suttas).

Part 3 - Eruption of A Great Dispute within The Sangha

When the Buddha was residing in the Ghositarama monastery, there arose a dispute between a bhikkhu who was versed in the Codes of Conduct (Vinaya), and another bhikkhu who was versed in Discourses (Suttas), both were living in the same monastery. One day, the one versed in suttas entered the privy and came out, leaving certain amount of water in the cup which was usually kept in the privy for common use. The bhikkhu versed in Vinaya, on entering the privy after him, saw the amount of water that was left in the cup, he came out and asked the one versed in Suttas: “Friend... did you leave some amount of water remaining in this cup?” The one versed in Suttas replied: “Friend... yes, I have,” with all sincerity. The one versed in Vinaya complained: “Well, friend... don't you know that such an act is tantamount to commission of a guilt (āpatti)?” The one versed in Suttas replied: “No... I don't, my friend.” Then the one versed in Vinaya explained: “Friend, to leave any amount of water in the cup is an offence (appatti).”

The bhikkhu versed in Suttas said: “If I am guilty of an offence, I am prepared to remove the offences by confessing.” Whereupon, the bhikkhu versed in Vinaya explained: “Friend, if such an act was committed through forgetfulness and without any volition there lies no fault.” On hearing this, the bhikkhu versed in Suttas formed the idea that he had not committed the offence of leaving behind some water in the cup.

(Herein, the bhikkhu versed in Vinaya had thought that “such an offence (leaving remaining amount of water in the cup) does not amount to a guilt (āpatti) by reason of absence of mind, devoid of volition.” As a matter of fact, such an offence is tantamount to a guilt, (Dukkata-āpatti) no matter whether such an act was committed through forgetfulness or without volition).

The bhikkhu versed in Vinaya told his disciples that the bhikkhu versed in Suttas did not know when he was guilty of an offence, to decry the one versed in Suttas. And when the disciples of the bhikkhu versed in Vinaya met the disciples of the one versed in Suttas, the former told the latter that their teacher had no knowledge of the guilt he had committed. When his disciples brought this news to his knowledge, the bhikkhu versed in Suttas said: “That bhikkhu versed in Vinaya himself told me that I was not guilty of that offence, and now, he had changed his words and accused me of being guilty of that offence. He has told a lie.”

The disciples of the bhikkhu versed in Suttas went and told the disciples of the bhikkhu versed in Vinaya: “Your teacher is a liar.” The quarrel thus began! The bhikkhu versed in Vinaya managed to obtain the support of his own associates and charged the bhikkhu versed in Suttas with the offense of not seeing the fault as fault (āpattiyā adassane ukkhepaniyakaṃ) and suspended him with a formal resolution.

The bhikkhu, who was thus suspended, being well informed and of social standing, approached his friends and associates and said: “As a matter of fact, that was a case where there was no fault, not a case where there was fault. I am unfallen, I have not fallen. I am unsuspended, I am not suspended. (although they have suspended me) I am not guilty, I was suspended by a formal act which was not legally valid. I would beseech you to stand by me as my partisans on account of the rule, on account of discipline, Dhamma-Vinaya. He thus gained many friends, supporters, and associates. A messenger was also sent to bhikkhus in the villages and country to explain the situation. Thus the bhikkhus in the country who were his associates also became his partisans.

The disciples of the suspended bhikkhus versed in Suttas went to those who suspended them and complained by way of refutation: “Friends... that is a non-guilty case, it is not a case entailing any guilt (āpatti). Wherefore, the bhikkhu versed in Suttas was not guilty of any offence. He is unsuspended though he has been suspended by a formal act which was not legally valid.”

The bhikkhus involved in suspending, in turn, told the suspended bhikkhus that, it was a case of guilt (āpatti), it was not a non-apatti case, the bhikkhu versed in Suttas was, therefore, guilty of an offence; it was not that he was not guilty; therefore he deserved to be suspended by a formal act of suspension which was legally valid: “Friends.. do not pursue his course, do not attend upon him any more.” But their appeals fell on the deaf ears of the bhikkhus versed in Suttas; they continued on attending upon the suspended bhikkhu, following him wherever he went.

Buddha exhorted Partisan Bhikkhus of The Rival Groups.

An unknown bhikkhu approached the Buddha and reported with due respect all that had happened.

Whereupon, the Buddha uttered: “The Order of Bhikkhus is divided, the Order of Bhikkhus is divided” twice in succession and went to the bhikkhus who had suspended the bhikkhu versed in Suttas and addressed them from a reserved seat:

(Bhikkhus had, by then, not actually been divided, but the Buddha had said it in anticipation of the imminent danger of division in due course of time. For instance, one might have said “the rice grains have ripened" (matured) when one noticed the break of rains ushering in the season for harvesting, hence the utterance!)

The Buddha addressed them:

Bhikkhus.... you should not, through pride and vanity, think of suspending or expelling a bhikkhu on account of a simple ordinary matter. Let us suppose that a certain bhikkhu might be guilty of an offence (āpatti) though he did not think that it was an offence, on one hand.

On the other hand, there might be bhikkhus who held it to be an offence (āpatti). Bhikkhus, if those bhikkhus know concerning that bhikkhu:

‘This Venerable one is well-informed and well versed in Dhamma-Vinaya and Pāṭimokkha, intelligent and wise, experienced, conscientious, scrupulous and desirous of three training practices;

(1) If we expel this bhikkhu for not seeing the offence, if we do not carry out the Observance together with this bhikkhu, and carry out the Observance without this bhikkhu, by doing so, there will be dispute, strife, brawls, there will be schism in the order, there will be altercation in the order, dissension in the order, differences in the order.’

Bhikkhus, knowing this, bhikkhus should not suspend or expel such a bhikkhu for not seeing an offence to ward off schism and promote unity. Bhikkhus.... you should not, through pride and vanity, think of suspending or expelling a bhikkhu on account of a simple ordinary matter. Let us suppose that a certain bhikkhu might be guilty of an offence (āpatti) though he did not think that it was an offence, on one hand.

On the other hand, there might be bhikkhus who held it to be an offence (āpatti). Bhikkhus, if those bhikkhus know concerning that bhikkhu:

‘This Venerable one is well-informed and well versed in Dhamma-Vinaya and Pāṭimokkha, intelligent and wise, experienced, conscientious, scrupulous and desirous of three training practices;

(2) if we expel this bhikkhu for not seeing the offence, and do not perform Pavārana ceremony (inviting one another to pardon) together with this bhikkhu, if we perform Pavarana without this bhikkhu;

(3) if we do not carry out a formal act of the order (Sangha kamma) together with this bhikkhu, if we will carry out a formal act of the order without this bhikkhu;

(4) if we do not sit on a seat together with this bhikkhu, if we sit on a seat without this bhikkhu;

(5) if we do not sit to drink gruel together with this bhikkhu, if we sit to drink gruel without this bhikkhu;

(6) if we do not sit in a refectory together with this bhikkhu, if we sit in a refectory without this bhikkhu;

(7) if we do not dwell under the same roof with this bhikkhu, if we dwell under one roof without him;

(8) if we do not pay respect according to seniority, greet or worship with joined palms, together with this bhikkhu, if we will pay respect according to seniority, greet or worship with joined palms without this bhikkhu; by doing so, there will be dispute, strife, brawls, there will be schism in the order, there will be altercation in the order, dissension in the order, differences in the order.’

Bhikkhus, knowing this, bhikkhus should not suspend or expel such a bhikkhu for not seeing an offence to ward off schism and promote unity.”

After preaching the above discourse for unity of Sangha to the bhikkhus who had suspended the bhikkhu, the Buddha went over to the disciples of the suspended bhikkhu (who was well-versed in Suttas) and delivered a discourse:-

Bhikkhus.... When you have committed an offence, you should not deem it that amends should not be made for the offence, thinking: “We have not committed an offence.”

Bhikkhus.... supposing a certain bhikkhu might be guilty of an offence (āpatti), though he did not think it was an offence, on one hand; and on the other hand, there might be bhikkhus who held it to be an offence (āpatti).

Bhikkhus, if that bhikkhu, who thinks he has not committed an offence, knows concerning those bhikkhus: “These Venerable Ones are well informed and well versed in Dhamma-Vinaya and Pāṭimokkha, intelligent and wise, conscientious, scrupulous and desirous of three training practices. Either because of me or because of anyone else, these bhikkhus should not take a wrong action through selfish desire, ill-will, through ignorance, through fear.

If these bhikkhus suspend me for not seeing an offence and

(1) if they do not carry out the Observance together with me, if they carry out the Observance without me;

(2) if these bhikkhus do not perform Pavarana ceremony together with me, if they perform Pavarana ceremony without me;

(3) if they do not carry out a formal act of the order (Sangha-kamma) together with me, if they will carry out a formal act of the order without me;

(4) if they do not sit on a seat together with me, if they sit on a seat without me;

(5) if they do not sit to drink gruel together with me, if they sit to drink gruel without me;

(6) if they do not sit in a refectory together with me, if they sit in a refectory without me;

(7) if they do not dwell under the same roof with me, if they dwell under one roof without me;

(8) if they do not pay respect according to seniority, greet or worship with joined palms, together with me, if they will pay respect according to seniority, greet or worship with joined palms without me; by doing so, there will be dispute, strife, brawls, there will be schism in the order, there will be altercation in the order, dissension in the order, differences in the order.

Bhikkhus, knowing this, the bhikkhu, should confess the guilt even out of faith in the Sangha to ward off schism and promote unity.”

After delivering this discourse for unity of Sangha, the Buddha rose from the seat and departed.

(N.B. The bhikkhu versed in Suttas had honestly expressed his desire “to confess and to ask for pardon” if he had committed an offence when the bhikkhu versed in Vinaya made a complaint at first. When he was told subsequently that “any offence committed through thoughtlessness and without volition does not amount to offence or sinful act” he sincerely thought he was free from guilt.)

Had the Buddha decided to blame those (versed in Vinaya) for suspending the bhikkhus versed in Suttas on such grounds, they would have accused Him of taking sides with their opponents, thus exposing themselves to the risk of committing an offence against Him, a demerit that could direct them to realms of woes.

Again, the bhikkhu versed in Suttas had knowingly left certain amount of water in the cup and as such, he was guilty of infringement of a light offence (dukkataāppatti). His disciples had expressed their opinion that such a judgment was legally invalid, through attachment to their teacher.

Had the Buddha decided to approve the judgment of those versed in Vinaya on such grounds, the disciples of the bhikkhu, who was versed in Suttas, would naturally accuse Him of taking sides with their opponents thus exposing themselves to the risk of committing an offence against Him, a demerit that could direct them to realms of woes.

(It should be borne in mind therefore, that the Buddha had thus refrained from putting blame on any of the rival groups in the interest of peace and tranquillity and after delivering discourses for unity of the Sangha, He made His departure from that place.)

Expounding on Two Ñāṇa Saṃvāsa and Two Samānā Saṃvasa

Now at that time, bhikkhus who had been suspended carried out the Observance and performed the formal Sangha-kamma in the Sima (within the boundary) of the same monastery, whereas those Sangha, who had expelled the former, carried out the Observance and performed the formal Sangha-kamma by having gone out-side the boundary of the monastery.

One of the bhikkhus of the latter group approached the Buddha with profound respect and addressed Him:

“Most Exalted Buddha,.. those bhikkhus who had been suspended carried out the Observance and performed the formal act of Sangha-kamma, in the Sima (within the boundary) of the same monastery whereas those Sangha who had expelled the former carried out the Observance and performed the formal Sangha-kamma by having gone outside the boundary of the monastery.”

Whereupon the Buddha gave the following answer to that bhikkhus:.

Dear bhikkhu... in case where those suspended bhikkhus carried out the Observance and performed other Sangha-kamma in accordance with the procedure for a motion and proclamation (ñatti kammavācā), laid down by Me, in the Sima of the monastery, their performances must be held to be quite in order, legally valid.

Dear bhikkhu.... in the same way, if you, the suspending bhikkhus, who have suspended the former, carried out the Observance and performed other Sanghakamma in accordance with the procedure for a motion and proclamation (ñatti kammavācā), laid down by Me, in the Sima of the monastery, your performances also must be held to be quite in order, legally valid.

Dear bhikkhu.... What is the reason for this? The suspended bhikkhus belong to a different communion from yours (not associated with you) and you belong to a different communion from theirs (not associating with them).

Two Kinds of Ñāṇa Saṃvāsa.

Dear bhikkhu... There are two grounds for belonging to a different communion (Ñāṇa-saṃvāsa): (1) one’s own effort; one makes oneself belong to a different communion, (2) being suspended by the Sangha for not seeing own offence (apatti), for not making amends, for not abandoning wrong view. Thus there are these two grounds for belonging to a different communion.

Two Kinds of Saṃānā Saṃvāsa

Dear bhikkhu... there are two grounds for belonging to the same communion (Samānā-saṃvāsa): (1) one’s own effort, one makes oneself belong to the same communion, (2) the whole Sangha lifts the Suspension and restore (Osaraniva Kamma) the bhikkhu who was suspended (Ukkhepaniya Kamma).

Thus there are two grounds for Ñāṇa-saṃvāsa and two grounds for Samānā-saṃvāsa, exhorted the Buddha.

(N.B. There are two groups or two types of bhikkhus, namely, (1) lawful bhikkhus (dhammavādi) who suspended the guilty bhikkhus (2) Unlawful bhikkhus who are suspended for being guilty of one or the other offence (adhammavādi). Should a bhikkhu, residing with one group or the other, decide, after scrutinizing the views of both groups of bhikkhu, that the bhikkhus, who are suspended are unlawful bhikkhu, and the bhikkhu, who suspended them are lawful ones, he himself has made himself of different communion with the suspended bhikkhus and of the same communion with the suspending bhikkhus.)

Conduct of Bhikkhus in Dispute

Now, at that time, bhikkhus fell into dispute, quarrelling and causing strife at the refectory in the villages. They behaved unsuitably towards one another in physical action and in speech. They came to blows. People looked down upon them, criticized them. Wellconducted and modest bhikkhus reported this unhappy state of affairs to the Buddha who sent for the disputing bhikkhus.

Having made enquiries and having rebuked them, the Buddha gave an appropriate talk and addressed them:

Bhikkhus, when the Sangha is divided, and if it is not behaving according to rules, if there is discord, you should sit down separately, thinking: ‘We cannot, at least, behave unsuitably towards one another in physical action and in speech. We cannot come to blows.

Bhikkhus, when the Sangha is divided, but if it is behaving according to rule and if there is friendliness, you may sit down next to one another.”

These are the guide-lines given to the rival bhikkhus for observance, whenever there is dissension amongst the Sangha.

Discourse on The Story of Dighavu

The two rival groups of bhikkhu went on quarrelling, making strife falling into disputes, in the midst of the Sangha wounding one another with the weapon of the tongue. The Sangha was unable to quell the dispute.

Then a certain bhikkhu approached the Buddha, having paid obeisance to Him, he stood at a suitable place and reported the matter and requesting Him to approach the quarrelling bhikkhus.

Whereupon, the Buddha went to the bhikkhus and exhorted them:

Bhikkhus... it is not at all right and proper for you to be quarrelling, fighting and opposing one another. Enough! no disputes, no quarrelling, no contentions.”

Whereupon, a bhikkhu of the suspended group, who had the welfare of the Buddha at heart, addressed: “Most Exalted Buddha,.... Let the Lord of the law wait, let the Bhagava remain unconcerned, intent on abiding in peace for the present. We will be responsible for these disputes, quarrels and strife.” This was his appeal to the Buddha.

The Buddha exhorted them twice in the same strain, and the bhikkhu of the suspended group repeated his appeal for two times in succession.

(N.B. The suspended bhikkhu was a well-wisher of the Buddha. He took pains to appeal to Him not to trouble Himself about the matter at a time when the flame of anger was at its peak.

But the Buddha perceived that the two rival groups would be back to their senses once the anger was removed, and so out of compassion for these bhikkhus, He delivered a discourse on the life story of Dighavu with that objective in view.

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