Vinaya Pitaka (3): Khandhaka

by I. B. Horner | 2014 | 386,194 words | ISBN-13: 9781921842160

The English translation of the Khandhaka: the second book of the Pali Vinaya Pitaka, one of the three major ‘baskets’ of Therevada canonical literature. It is a collection of various narratives. The English translation of the Vinaya-pitaka (third part, khandhaka) contains many Pali original words, but transliterated using a system similar to the I...

Translator’s Introduction

BD.5.v The Cullavagga, the Less or Lesser Division of the Vinaya, consists of twelve Sections. The first three of these have been translated by H. Oldenberg and T.W. Rhys Davids in Sacred Books of the East, Volume XVII, 1882, and the remaining nine in Sacred Books of the East, Volume XX, 1885. The Pali Vinaya on which their translation as well as mine is based is that edited by Oldenberg in 1880 as Volume II of his Vinaya Piṭakaṃ.

The wealth of detail increases rather than diminishes in this Lesser Division, and as an instrument for use by monks and nuns is astonishing in its variety and the minute precision it lavishes on greater and smaller points alike.

It was no doubt ever more and more necessary to put the proper ways of meeting disturbances in the Order on a firm basis. This certainly appears to be the purpose of Section I which deals in turn with seven formal acts: (1) censure for quarrels, disputes and contention which perhaps arose from an earnest endeavour to act in conformity with what had been bid down and then finding that there were other and different opinions; or which perhaps were wantonly made in the Order by monks who, unable to master the higher practices, found time hang heavy; (2) guidance for a monk who had persisted in frequenting the laity and to guide him to consort instead with kalyāṇamittā and so become learned and expert in the dhamma and discipline; (3) banishment for a monk who had indulged in the numerous “bad habits” specified here and there in the Pali canon in a stereotyped passage; (4) reconciliation for a monk who had been rude to a householder, and who, when he went to ask for his forgiveness, was allowed to take a companion with him to act as messenger and spokesman in case the monk himself was overcome with shame and embarrassment—an allowance which in Kd.22 Yasa, the son of Kākaṇḍakā, asked to be extended to him when he was accused (wrongly) by the Vajjis of Vesālī of reviling and abusing lay-followers; (5, 6, 7) three acts of suspension for not seeing an offence, for not making amends for one, for not giving up a wrong view, respectively. All these formal acts have been mentioned already in the Mahāvagga (BD.4). But only an indication is given there of the occasions for carrying them out (as summarised above). These, while tallying with the occasions given in the Cullavagga, specify neither the method to be followed in carrying out each one, nor any of the grounds held to be sufficient for its revocation. All this is however dealt with by the Cullavagga.

Some of the stories chosen to illustrate behaviour which calls for one of these formal acts to correct it appear also in other parts of the Vinaya. For example, the episode of the monk Ariṭṭha occurs both in Bu-Pc.68 and in Kd.11.32. The former gives the holder of wrong views a chance to renounce them while he is being admonished up to the third time. It is only, after this, if he persists in clinging to his views that he incurs an offence of expiation. But in the Cullavagga Ariṭṭha is given no final chance to clear himself. Once it is found that he holds to his views, the Order is told that it can carry out a formal act of suspension against him. He thereupon left the Order. As the text stands, Gotama is shown as saying that the formal act of suspension may be revoked. This would not only be an uncharacteristic weakness, but it does not fit the context. In fact, as Oldenberg remarks, we should have expected a negative here, and hence just the opposite: Let the Order not revoke the formal act of suspension for not giving up the wrong view (Kd.11.34.1). This would moreover have been in line with the injunction not to revoke the act of banishment when those against whom it had been carried out went away and left the Order (Kd.1.16.1).

At Vin-a.874 Ariṭṭha is called an enemy of the Buddha’s dispensation, and although as a rule monks were not lightly let go of to return to the “world”, his was a stubborn case where his absence might well have been preferred to his presence. The Order was by now well established both in the popular esteem and as an institution running efficiently by its own internal and developed organisation, and if a monk left it, this would be attributed to his own incompetence rather than to any deficiency in the teaching and training.

Apart from expulsion from the Order for having committed one of the four Pārājika offences, and apart from being expelled for any one of the reasons given at Kd.1.61–Kd.1.68, a monk left BD.5.vii of his own choice. The formal act of banishment is not banishment from the Order, but from a particular place where a monk had, for example, either indulged in “bad habits”, been frivolous or harmful in body or speech, caused strife and contention, or spoken dispraise of the Awakened One, dhamma or the Order. If he conducted himself properly while the act of banishment against him was in force, he could be rehabilitated, a privilege impossible to extend to one who had been expelled.

Sections Kd.12 and Kd.13 of the Cullavagga deal in great detail with Probation. This is not probation preliminary to entering the Order; but probation imposed on one who is already a member of it, and consisting of “going back to the beginning” of his training and being subjected to mānatta discipline. Such probation falls under the four headings mentioned at Vin-a.1159: that for offences which have been concealed, that for unconcealed offences, the concurrent probation and the purifying probation. This last could be imposed on monks who did not know whether they had worked through this disciplinary period of probation or not. In view of the many references to “ignorant inexperienced monks”, such haziness in regard to the right day for the termination of a probationary period is no more surprising than is the ignorance monks manifested about the stars and the quarters (Kd.8.6.1) and which proved physically harmful to them.

Section Kd.14 is devoted to the different ways of settling legal questions. These legal questions have already been mentioned in the Suttavibhaṅga. In the first place, the case must be settled in the presence of the accused monk. But this verdict “in the presence of” is necessary to all legal settlements. Secondly there is the verdict of innocence given in favour of a monk who was wrongfully accused of an offence. Dabba the Mallian is taken as the example, and his story is told in the same words as in FBu-Ss.8. But in the Formal Meeting the interest, at the end, is shifted to the monks who accused him and who incur an offence for doing so; while in the Cullavagga the interest is centred on Dabba who is to have a verdict of innocence accorded him. We must therefore understand that this is a case where two separate actions of the Order were called for: one dealing with the monks who brought the false accusation against Dabba, and one for acquitting him.

BD.5.viii Then comes the “verdict of past insanity”, to be given for monks who were mad when they committed an offence. As is usual, the properties that render the act legally valid or not are enumerated. Then follows the settlement of disputes or contention by the “decision of the majority” when a reliable monk is to be agreed upon as distributor of voting-tickets, an important post (Kd.14.14.26) and one which Devadatta arrogated to himself and abused in his attempts to split the Order (Kd.18.4.1). Next, there is the “decision for specific depravity” when a monk, on being examined for an offence, prevaricates and lies. Finally there was the settlement by the “covering up as with grass”, enacted when things had been done or said in the heat of a quarrel and which, if made into a legal question, would only lead to further trouble and perhaps schism. Legal questions such as this could be covered up by each contending side confessing through a competent monk whatever were the offences that had been committed, unless they were serious offences (involving Defeat or a Formal Meeting of the Order, according to Vin-a.1194), or ones that affected the laity (Kd.14.13.2, Kd.14.13.3). And moreover, such offences could not be settled in this way for anyone who objected or who was not present. Otherwise, a legal question arising from disputes could be settled by a committee or referendum (Kd.14.14.19) or, failing this, by the decision of the majority (Kd.14.14.24). The Venerable Revata called for a referendum of eight monks to settle the “ten points” promulgated by the Vajjis of Vesālī, and which formed the business before the Council of Vesālī (see Kd.22).

The whole subject of the legal questions and their settlement, although complicated, must be studied by anyone who wishes to grasp an important branch of the disciplinary proceedings of the Order together with the very exact machinery laid down for carrying them out. A certain pattern will be found to emerge. For the “Internal Polity of a Buddhist Saṅgha”, Chapter 6 of S. Dutt’s Early Buddhist Monachism may be profitably consulted.

With Sections Kd.15, Kd.16, Kd.18 and Kd.19 we remain in the heart of the monastic life as it was to be lived normally. But with Section Kd.17, on Schisms, we arrive more definitely than in the Mahāvagga at that real and increasingly present danger of dissentient BD.5.ix voices rising to a chorus in schismatic factions. Each Section, besides its scrupulous attention to every point that arises, also contains a certain amount of narrative material.

Section Kd.15 is so loaded with detail as to make it almost impossible to pick out salient points. But mention must be made of the “group of six monks”, which really means a number of monks under three pairs of leaders. For they are constantly referred to as the malefactors from whose conduct, often unsuitable because it resembled that of householders, springs the opportunity to regularise behaviour on all pertinent points. This is, in addition, a Section well worth studying for the light it throws on contemporary manners and the things in common usage. It is a Section where the laity are made important a wonder of psychic power is not to be displayed in front of them Kd.15.8; their “bowls could be turned upside down”, a symbolic expression meaning that if they offered food to the monks, these could, after agreeing to a motion put before the Order, turn their bowls upside down to show that they held a layman in such disgrace they would accept no food from him (Kd.15.20), thereby depriving him of merit. There is also the allowance that monks may tread on cloths when being asked to do so by householders “for good luck’s sake” (Kd.15.21). Then there is the episode when people bring scents and garlands to a monastery. The monks are allowed to accept the scents on condition that they place the “five-finger mark” on a door. This has the appearance of a protective measure; and we know from the Buddhist charms or spells, parittā, one of which is to be found in this Section Kd.15.6, that such runes or chants for self-guarding played a not negligible part in Early Buddhist life.

Section Kd.16 is a compendium of what is allowable or not in regard to dwelling-places. For narrative material, it contains the story of how Anāthapiṇḍika heard the words “Awakened One”, buddha, for the first time and determined to see the Lord, who addressed him by the name of Sudatta, unknown outside his family, and spoke to him on dhamma. The vision of dhamma thereupon arose in Anāthapiṇḍika, he became a lay-follower, and acquired Prince Jeta’s Grove as a gift to the Order. The story of his first meeting with the Buddha is also told, but more briefly, in the Saṃyutta. In this Section is also BD.5.x to be found the Tittira-jātaka which came to be known as the Partridge Brahma-faring Kd.16.6.3, told here to encourage monks to be courteous and polite to one another. Harmony in the Order was constantly being sought, as a number of episodes and allusions in the Vinaya indicate. It is by no means only in Section Kd.16 that passages occur that have parallels in other parts of the Pali canon or the Jātaka. Throughout the Vinaya this is the case, and probably a concordance of Vinaya stories would show only few to be peculiar to it.

Section Kd.17 begins with the story of Anuruddha’s going forth from home together with Bhaddiya, a Sakyan chieftain who, within a year, realised the threefold knowledge and acclaimed his happiness. Monks, hearing him, grew suspicious that he was remembering the former joys of rulership. But Bhaddiya was able to convince Gotama, in words reminiscent of SN.i.72–SN.i.73, that previously, although he had had a fully appointed guard, he had been nervous and frightened all the same; but, now, alone in a forest he is unconcerned and unruffled. An explanation of why this story is placed at the beginning of the Section on Schisms seems called for. I can only suggest that if the monks who alleged that Bhaddiya was dissatisfied with the Brahma-faring had turned out to be right, it is not unreasonable to suppose they would next have regarded him as a potential schismatic.

This was the role for which, however, Devadatta was cast, and for far more: he was also a potential murderer, prepared to go to great lengths to get rid of the Buddha. In his overweening ambition, Devadatta thought he should no longer be the leader and coveted this position for himself. Now, although those who have progressed some distance on the Way may feel themselves safe and immune to attacks (see Bhaddiya’s story and also the Bhayabherava Sutta of the Majjhima), the tradition nevertheless recognises slayers of arahants (see e.g. BD.4.113, etc.), while various Commentaries hold that Moggallāna, an arahant of long standing, was actually murdered (Ja.v.125; Dhp-a.iii.65). At Kv.313, however, the untimely death of an arahant is a controverted point. Tathāgatas, Truth-finders, must be different, for although they may be hurt and their blood shed (BD.4.113, etc., and Kd.17.3.9), according to our Section Kd.17 they need no protection and cannot be BD.5.xi deprived of life by aggression Kd.17.3.10. Their attainment of nibbāna (with no residue remaining) is in fact a matter precisely of their own volition, as is also apparent from the episode (referred to in Kd.21.1.10) where Ānanda fails to ask the Buddha to prolong his life to the full. He died when he was in the eighties. The assumption is probably that he might have lived to be a hundred or so as the Pali canon states that people sometimes attain this age, while Sabbakāmin was so old at the time of the Council of Vesālī that it was 120 years since his ordination Kd.22.2.4. He must probably have been at least 140 years of age then, for in Bu-Pc.65 it is said that ordination must not be conferred on any male less than twenty years old.

In Section Kd.17 we hear of another formal act, one that is extra to the seven dealt with in Kd.1. This is the formal act of Information, pakāsaniyakamma, which allowed it to be proclaimed that someone’s nature or character had altered—for the worse (Kd.17.3.2). The causative form, pakāseti, “to give information” of the verb pakāsati (of which pakāsaniya is the gerundive), is used with at least a semi-technical sense by the Vajjis of Vesālī when speaking of Yasa, the son of Kākaṇḍakā, and who had been able to change the lay-followers’ opinion as to who the true recluses really were (Kd.22.1.7).

Much of Section Kd.18 consists of passages of some considerable length, most of which have already occurred in the Mahāvagga, use also being made of Sekhiya material. But the contexts are different. For example, Kd.1.25 lays down the proper conduct for those who share cells towards their preceptors, while in Kd.18.1.2–Kd.18.1.5 this same conduct, laid down in almost identical words except for a few additions or omissions, is to be observed by a monk arriving at a monastery, and again in Kd.18.7.2–Kd.18.7.4 by monks in respect of their lodgings. These are three occasions where conduct is, rather naturally, to be the same, for all three concern monks actually in a monastery, even if only just arrived. Yet the instructions specifically for resident monks (Kd.18.2.2Kd.18.2.3) are connected more with their behaviour to incoming monks than with any thing else. We have seen that the same story, for example that of Dabba and that of Ariṭṭha, may be told so as to introduce varying BD.5.xii effects. So here, the same behaviour may be followed in varying circumstances. A great process of stabilisation was at work. As the mass of allowances and offences—in the Cuḷavagga mostly those of wrong-doing—pile up and increase, so the allusions become all the clearer. Thus, by the time we get to Kd.18.3.2 the nature of the clay goods and the wooden goods that have to be packed away by a monk who is leaving a residence, can be understood by referring to Kd.15.37. For it is here that Gotama “allows”, as recorded, all clay goods and all wooden ones with certain specified exceptions.

Section Kd.19, concerned mainly with the legally valid and the legally invalid suspensions of the Pātimokkha, is introduced by the eight beautiful similitudes of the great ocean, a passage found also in the Aṅguttara and the Udāna. The third of these similes showing what, ideally, the monks ought to be, is particularly to the point: the Order does not live in communion with an impure monk, but, having assembled quickly, suspends him, with the result that he is far from the Order and the Order is far from him Kd.19.1.4. Therefore, also to the point, is the story that precedes the similes of the sea. It is a story of how the Buddha refused, in spite of a plea made three times by Ānanda, to recite the Pātimokkha to the monks. For, “the assembly is not entirely pure, Ānanda”, having in it one individual of a depravity so grave that he is described in strongly derogatory, if stereotyped, terms. The Truth-finder cannot recite the Pātimokkha to an assembly containing a monk like this (Kd.19.1.2). Instead, he delegates his powers, now as it seems out of disappointment and disgust, whereas formerly he had delegated other powers in the full tide of success (Kd.1.12.1). In both cases it is reasonable to suppose that he did so because the Order was growing beyond the capacity of one man to handle; and because he had therefore increasingly to look to the monks themselves to maintain the Order on the lines laid down by him, both while he was alive and after he was with them no longer.

At the end of Section Kd.19 we are at the end of the discipline for monks. Many and exceedingly various are the points that have been raised, and a ruling given on each. The whole method of conducting Buddhist monasticism for those who follow the Pali Vinaya is contained in this and amounts to a BD.5.xiii very complete system. All doubts as to what is allowable and what is not, or all doubts as to how to act either in conclave or as an individual may be resolved by referring to the discipline that has been laid down. All misdoings, whether serious or nor, have their appropriate penalty attached to them. Behaviour is right if it promotes one’s own progress along the Way or that of others. As such it is skillful, kusala.

As the Bhikkhunī-pātimokkha or Vibhaṅga follows the Bhikkhu- (called the Great, mahā-) Vibhaṅga, so in the Cullavagga, at the close of the legalised rules and proceedings governing the life of monks, there follows a Section devoted to the Order of nuns. It begins with an account of the formation of this Order, and contains the important statement, attributed to Gotama, that women are capable of attaining arahantship. The eight important rules (found also in Monks’ Bu-Pc.21) are then laid down, their adoption by Mahāpajāpatī, the instigator of the Order of nuns, constituting her ordination. The remainder of this Section is taken up with regularising for nuns the recital of the Pātimokkha, the confession of offences, the settlement of legal questions, and their exhortation, and so forth. Then come incidents told so as to establish various offences of wrong-doing and various “allowances”. There follows on this the method to be followed for the second ordination of nuns, that by monks, after they have been ordained by nuns as laid down in the Nuns’ Pācittiyas. After more offences of wrong-doing, there is a reversion to ordaining, this time through a messenger, and finally more offences of wrong-doing and more “allowances”.

In this Section there is included the prohibition of forest-dwelling for nuns (Kd.20.23), a prohibition not, I believe, precisely repeated elsewhere. This reduces the number of their “resources” to three, instead of four, as for monks. It is said that if a nun stays in a forest there is an offence of wrong-doing. But in Nuns’ Formal Meeting 3 (Vin.4.230), it is said that a nun incurs a grave offence if, while she is in a forest, she goes out of sight or hearing of her companion nun, and an offence entailing a Formal Meeting of the Order once she has got outside. The whole of this amounts to saying that nuns may pass through a forest if they go two together, but BD.5.xiv that they must not stay in one either together or separately. This was for the sake of their security.

Another interesting point is that nuns, on returning to the Order after they had joined one of the other sects, should not be ordained again. This privilege could be extended to monks, provided that they first underwent a four months’ probation (Kd.1.38.1). Life for nuns was probably harder than it was for monks. In spite of the sympathy and justice with which their troubles were met, they were to some extent discriminated against. I have referred to this on my Introduction at BD.3.xxxix; and in the notes to Volumes BD.4 and BD.6 have mentioned such discrepancies as occur between the penalties inflicted on monks and on nuns for similar behaviour. Possibly the only exception to the general trend of the heavier penalty being imposed on a nun is in the case of “giving a blow to a monk”. Here, if a nun does so, her offence is ranked as one of wrong-doing while, if a monk strikes another monk, his offence is one of expiation (see below, Vin.5.371).

In the Monks’ Bu-Pd.1, because “women obtain things with difficulty” (BD.3.104) it was made an offence to be confessed if a monk accepted, with certain reservations, food from the hand of a nun who was not a relation. But in the Cullavagga a nun is to offer any food there is in her bowl to a monk (Kd.20.13.2). On the other hand, monks could offer nuns food that had been stored (Kd.20.15.1) if they had more than they wanted for themselves; and if nuns were short of lodgings the monks might give them some temporarily, again if they had more than they wanted (Kd.20.16.1).

A great number of women are traditionally held to have flocked to the Order of nuns. It is conceivable that they were generally regarded as of poorer quality than the monks, and that therefore there had to be a severer testing in order to weed out those who had entered without having a real vocation. It is significant that in the Etad Aggas of the Aṅguttara there are for monks forty-seven classes of attainments and forty-one monks said to be chief in them (for some are chief in more than one attainment), while for nuns there are only thirteen classes of attainments, as many nuns being chief in them. Among the former Nandaka is called the chief of monks who BD.5.xv exhort nuns. I have referred to the vicissitudes attendant upon the legalisation of the exhortation for nuns at BD.3.xli, and can here only mention what looks like a general injunction for nuns to follow when monks fail them: pāsādikena sampādetu, struggle on, labour on in friendliness (see below, Vin.5.366).

At the end of Section Kd.21, on the Council of Rājagaha, because exactly five hundred monks were there, it is said that this “chanting of the discipline” vinayasaṃgīti, is in consequence called that of the Five Hundred. To speak of a “chanting of discipline” is rather a curious and limited description.[1] For it is expressly said in Vin.5.118 that Ānanda undertook to answer questions on dhamma, and beginning with the Brahmajāla and the Sāmaññaphala Suttantas, did in fact answer corresponding questions about the five Nikāyas. This is no less a feat than that performed by Upāli, the great Vinaya expert, who, having answered questions about the four Pārājika offences, then went on to answer questions about the two disciplines, ubhatovinaye, as told in Kd.21.1.7. All the questions on dhamma and discipline were put by the learned Kassapa the Great. It seems that this elder, reacting to Subhadda’s unsatisfactory attitude to Gotama’s death, with great prevision suggested to the other monks that dhamma and discipline should be chanted before not-dhamma and not-discipline should shine out and dhamma and discipline be withheld (Kd.21.1.1). The final name: “chanting of the discipline” seems therefore to sum up only half the proceedings dealt with at the first Council. This Council or Conference was held shortly, some Commentaries say three months, after Gotama had died. The record of this Council is of the utmost importance as the tradition—oral only, it is true—of a dhamma that was taught and a discipline that was laid down if not wholly by the Founder himself, at all events while he was still alive.

How far their recital was well based and well carried out is brought into a little doubt by the episode of the monk Purāṇa, the Old One, who told the elders he would remember dhamma and discipline just as he had heard and learnt them in the BD.5.xvi Lord’s presence. His words: “Well chanted by the elders”, are polite, but he was apparently not quite convinced.

According to Section Kd.21, discipline was recited before dhamma. The rather bald narrative gives no reason. The Commentaries however come forward with an explanation.[2] They say that Kassapa asked the monks whether dhamma or discipline should be chanted first, and the monks replied: “Discipline is called the āyu, the life or vitality, of the Buddha’s dispensation; while the discipline stands, the dispensation stands. Therefore let us chant discipline first.” The same sentiment is expressed in the verse inserted before the uddāna, the key, at the end of Section Kd.1 of the Mahāvagga. (BD.4.127). The underlying notion is that discipline is primarily concerned with sīla, or purification of the ways of acting in body and speech, and therefore with the first of the three categories into which the whole sāsana, dispensation or teaching, is graded.

The remainder of Section Kd.21 is devoted to Ānanda. He is the central figure. Feeling that it was not suitable in him to go to the Council while he was still a sekha, a learner, he made an effort to realise arahantship and, at a moment when no part of him was touching the earth, his mind was freed from the cankers. As the DN-a.i.10 rightly points out, when it is said: “in this teaching when a monk attains arahantship neither lying nor sitting down, neither standing nor pacing up and down”, it is to be said of Ānanda. The DN-a goes on to say that Ānanda, now thinking he was fit to enter the assembly, delighted and rejoicing, went there shining like a full moon on a cloudless night, like a lotus blooming at the sun’s touch, his face pure and radiant as though he were announcing his attaining of arahantship. But the Commentary (Vin-a.i.12–13) gives a different version, and one that at DN-a.i.11 is ascribed to the Majjhima-bhāṇakas, or repeaters, of how he went to the Council. According to this: “Ānanda, not wishing to tell of his attainment of arahantship, did not go with the monks. They asked whom an empty seat was for, and hearing it was for Ānanda, asked where he had gone. At this moment he thought: ‘Now is the time for me to go,’ and displaying his psychic power, plunging into the earth, he BD.5.xvii showed himself as it were in his own seat. Some say he sat down after going through the air.”

His arahantship, however, did not appear to have commanded much respect. After the Council was over, he told the elders what the Lord had said at the time of his parinibbāna about abolishing the “lesser and minor rules of training”. This acted like a goad on the elders and they charged him with one offence of wrong-doing after another—all of which must have been committed before he attained arahantship, even the imputed offence of allowing women, to weep and lament beside Gotama’s body. I know of no other occasion recorded in the Pali canon where an arahant is asked to confess offences said to have been committed by him before gaining liberation. This episode therefore not only puts the accusing elders in a very dubious light, it also indicates that offences of wrong-doing could be invented after Gotama’s death. But as the offences with which Ānanda was charged were all concerned with the Founder himself, they are not likely to be repeated.

What must be regarded as a more dignified and correct attitude was taken, later, by Ānanda himself when he was sent to inflict the supreme or highest penalty, brahmadaṇḍa, on Channa (Kd.21.1.15). Channa was so much overcome by the thought of submitting to this penalty of ostracism that he took himself seriously in hand and won arahantship—the second monk recorded in this Section to do so. Ānanda then tells him that from the moment he won it the highest penalty became revoked—automatically—for him. This is the Channa who was Gotama’s charioteer while he was still the Bodhisatta. It was because of his affection for Gotama, and then because of his pride in “our Buddha, our dhamma”, that he was unable to carry out the samaṇadhamma, the rule for recluses (Thag-a.i.166), until he had received the emotional shock, samvega, of the imposition of the supreme penalty on him.

Oldenberg states (Vinaya Piṭakaṃ i.xxvii) that the story of the First Council as it has come down to us in the Cullavagga, “is not history, but pure invention and, moreover, invention of no very ancient date”. He bases his argument on a comparison with the Mahāparinibbāna Suttanta which, while it contains passages word for word the same as in the Cullavagga, yet BD.5.xviii makes no allusion either to Kassapa’s proposal for holding a Council or to the Council itself. Oldenberg concludes that “the author” of the Mahāparinibbāna Suttanta did not know anything of the First Council. Certainly his silence is otherwise hard to account for unless we allow that “he” (the author, who should rather be spoken of as the compiler or compilers) did not want to refer to it. We are accustomed in the Pali canon to finding the same stories running parallel up to a certain point and then turning off into different endings. It is possible that we have such a case here; and that the opening part of Kd.21 was told so as to lead up to the proposal to convene a Council, while the same story was told in the Dīgha (with the transposition of the Subhadda incident) so as to lead up to the account of the disposal of the relics. This affected the Buddha’s body, whereas the Council of Rājagaha was held in the attempt to get clear precisely what had been his dhamma and discipline. Recited by 500 elders, it could carry weight.

Nevertheless, the Pali recension of the Council may be neither wholly correct nor wholly complete. It is one of several versions stemming from different schools and whose canons may vary from sect to sect. The late Professor Przyluski was of the opinion that, in respect of this Council, the sutras may contain older material than the vinayas. He collected a number of versions of both and presented them, translated into French, in his valuable work: Le Concile de Rājagṛha, Paris, 1926. The student is referred to this book; he will then be able to make any comparisons he wishes between the Pali Vinaya account and the others. For it is not a necessary function of this Sacred Books of the Buddhists Series to stray from the Pali texts themselves.

Section Kd.22, that on the Second Council, held at Vesālī a “century” after Gotama’s parinibbāna—a century being “no doubt a round number”[3]—is more truly characterised at its end as “a chanting of discipline” than is Section Kd.21. For this chanting by the 700 monks is concerned with ten points of discipline only, and whether these could not be relaxed. The very fact that they were called in question shows that, in the years that had passed since Gotama’s death, a less BD.5.xix austere attitude, a more demanding note had crept in. It was to determine which was to be followed—the less austere attitude or the more austere one—that this Council was held.

It was ultimately the monk Yasa, the son of Kākaṇḍakā, who was responsible for the “chanting of discipline” which, limited to the ten points, was the subject before the Council of Vesālī. Various Commentaries recognise this (e.g. AN-a.ii.10; MN-a.iv.114) by referring to this chanting as Yasattherassa saṃgīti, the Recital of the Elder Yasa. He got the laypeople on his side by telling them three stories where Gotama had denounced the acceptance of gold and silver by monks—the tenth point, and possibly the most important; and that he aroused much interest among the monks is clear from the records. The endless disputations that arose, the speeches made whose meanings were not clear (Kd.22.2.7), impelled the elder Revata, whose opinion on the ten points in question coincided with Yasa’s, to select a referendum of eight monks to settle the points. Their decision still holds good today in Theravādin countries. In the traditional way of the democratic Order, all the monks present were asked to agree on the eight elders proposed by Revata. They further agreed on a ninth monk, Ajita, to appoint the seats for the elders who would be listening to the proceedings.

The exact place in Vesālī where the Council was held is doubtful. The Vinaya (Kd.22.2.7) says it took place in the Vālika monastery, as does the Mahāvaṃsa; but the Dīpavaṃsa lays the scene in the Hall of the Gabled House. It is perhaps of no great importance, except as adding to the confusion which surrounds the legends of the Councils. What the Vinaya record of the Council of Vesālī clearly indicates is that there was enough dissatisfaction among certain monks to bring about a schism, if not checked, with the attendant danger of dhamma turning into not-dhamma and discipline into not-discipline.

It may be asked why the Cullavagga is rounded off by the Sections dealing with the first two Councils, and which make the Cullavagga longer by two Sections than the Mahāvagga. Whether they were a later addition or not, I can only suggest that they are included, reasonably and suitably as it seems to me, at the end of the enormously long compendium of discipline for monks BD.5.xx and nuns so as to give a culminating authority and sanction to this discipline, which at the time of the Council of Vesālī, had been tested for a “century”.

All the words spoken by the Buddha between his attainment of supreme self-awakening and his parinibbāna have but the one flavour, that of freedom (see Kd.9.1.4, etc., and Vin-a.i.16, DN-a.i.16). This is a characteristic of the Buddhavacana. Freedom is to be sought and realised by those who have entered on the Way. For their help and guidance there are two parts of the Buddhavacana, namely dhamma and discipline. It is no fault of the Pali canon if later generations have split the frequently occurring compound of dhammavinaya into its two component parts, and have treated each as if it functioned more or less in isolation from the other. Dhamma is rooted in discipline; and discipline is always bordering on dhamma, as sīla is on samādhi and both on paññā, intuitive wisdom, to give point and substance to all its rules, regulations, offences and allowances. All the time it is training disciples to attain sufficient habitual purity ultimately to enter into the goal of Wisdom, even of that “great wisdom” of which Sāriputta, “beloved” above all other disciples, was said to be the chief (AN.i.23). The Discipline, rigid and strict, is preliminary to and usually necessary to the flowering of Wisdom. Without the control of body and speech (discipline, moral habit), without mind-control (concentration), the full expansion of wisdom may never come to be. Discipline therefore, at the beginning of the training, “is a teaching of commands, āṇādesanā, being taught by the Lord in respect of a multitude of commands for those meriting commands” (Vin-a.i.21, DN-a.i.19).

Practically every conceivable thing affecting monastic life for monks and nuns, practically every conceivable relation with other human beings, whether fellow monks or nuns or the laity, are brought under review and legislated for in minutest detail through the seven classes of offence, through the “allowances”, and through the most important and the regularly recurring events in a monk’s life: Ordination, Observance, Invitation, the rains-residence, the making up of new robe-material; through the seven official formal acts of the Order, beginning with that of censure, and through the suspension of the Pātimokkha. It is a very complete system, a very precise BD.5.xxi organisation marked throughout by the humaneness and reasonableness of Gotama, the codifier to whom with but few exceptions every ruling is ascribed.

I.B. Horner.


December, 1951.

Footnotes and references:


Noticed by Oldenberg, Vinaya Piṭakaṃ, vol.i, p.xxix, note.


Vin-a.i.13; DN-a.i.11.


Vinaya Texts i, Introduction, p.xxii.

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