Dipavamsa (study)

by Sibani Barman | 2017 | 55,946 words

This page relates ‘second Buddhist Council’ of the study on the Dipavamsa conducted by S. Barman in 2017. The Dipavamsa is the base material of the Vamsa literatures of Ceylon (Srilanka or Sri-Lanka) writtin the Pali language.

Chapter 2c - The second Buddhist Council

The Dīpavaṃsa narrates that after the end of the first one hundred year and at the beginning of the second century of the First Buddhist Council, a great schism had happened in the doctrine of the Theras. The history of Buddhism followed a dark period after the session of the First Great Council. Political unrest, internal conflict, social, economical and religious conditions had deep effect on its practice. However, the Dhamma and the Vinaya as settled in the First Council were successfully followed by the disciples of the Buddha. But gradually differences and relaxation in the rules of the Saṅgha were demanded by the new entrants who were not able to follow the rigid rules of discipline.

According to Pāli tradition of the Cullavagga, Khandaka XII, a century after the parinibbāna of the Buddha, the Second Council was convened by seven hundred Arahants at Vālukārāma of Vaiśāli during the time of King Kālāshoka


Some Vajjian monks of Vaisali (present Basrha village at Muzaffarpur district in Bihar) tried to have legal sanction to the ten unlawful points (Dasavatthuni) of Buddhism. Kākandakaputta Yasa of Kauśāmbi happened to notice during his stay at Mahāvana at Kuṭāgāra hall of Vaiśāli that, on one Uposatha day the Vajjian monks placed a copper bowl with water in the middst of the Bhikkhu-Saṃgha and asked the Upāsakas to contribute some gold or silver coins or kahāpanas (Skt. Kārṣāpaṇ) for the need of the community.Yasa openly protested against this and asked the donors not to offer any money, as the use of gold and silver was strictly prohibited in the Vinaya.

Being angry by the attitude of Yasa, the Vajjian monks imposed on him the act of expiation (Paṭisāraniya Kamma). The person on whom this punishment is conferred has to ask the insulted persons forgiveness. For that reason Yasa went to the Upāsakas but did not beg perdon, instead he told the fact before the Upāsakas and argued that their work was against the Master’s instructions codified in the Vinaya rules.The Upāsakas were persuaded by the advocacy of Yasa and regarded the Vajjian monks as lawbreakers. The suspended monks became furious by this and pronounced again on Yasa the act of suspension (ukkhepaniya-kamma) 110 for not acknoledging his offences.

After being expelled from the Saṅgha, Yasa went to his native place Kauśāmbi. From there he sent messengers to the Bhikkhus of Avanti, Pāṭheyya (West India) and the South inviting them to assemble and take necessary steps against these irreligious works. He personally went to the Thera Sambhūta Sāṇavāsi who then resided at the Ahogaṅgā hill (on the high Ganges) and requested him to take up this question in earnest. Ven. Sāṇavāsi agreed to do so. About the same time sixty Arhats from Pāṭheya, eighty-eight from Avanti and the Southern Country came in response to Yasa’s invitation and assembled on the Ahogaṅgā hill. But, they failed to find any solution. They went to the Thera Revata of Sureyyawho was then the chief of the Saṅgha. Revata was not willing to involve in this problem. He started wandering from place to place. After many attempts, the monks got hold of him at Sahajāti.

On the advice of Sambhuta Sāṇavāsi, Yasa told the Theara Revata the reason that made him come to here. One by one, Bhikkhu Yasa brought up the ten points and asked for his opinion. Each one of them was declared to be invalid by the Thera Revata.

The Vajjian monks also tried similarly to have Revata’s consent for their deeds. They offered valuable things to him. But Revata did not agree with their proposal. After that they approached Uttara, a pupil of Revata and made him agree to speak on their behalf. Yet, Revata refused them.

At last Revata suggested the monks to solve the dispute at Vaisali, the place of its origin. The venerable Sabbakāmi who was residing at Vaiśāli received Revata and his followers along with Sambhūta Sānavāsi with great enthusiasm. So the business of the second council started with seven hundred monks with the financial support by Kālāśoka at Vālukārāma.

[cf. Appendix 2: A Study of the Ten Points]

Proceedings of the council:

The main purpose of the council was to examine the validity of ten indulgences (dasavatthuni) of a section of Veśālian monks. According to Dīpavaṃsa, The session began with seven hundred monks and the selected members in the council were the best among the monks. At the beginning, there was much confused talk and fruitless discussions. In order to avoid further waste of time, the matter was referred to a committee consisting of four monks from the east and four from the west.

The committee was formed by Ubbāhika (arbitration) process. The process complies with the rules laid down by the Buddha. The Cullavagga, Dīpavaṃsa and Mahāvaṃsa give the names of the eight Theras of the committee which are as follows: Sabbakāmi, Sālha, Khujjasobhita and Vāsabhagāmī from the East (Pācinakā); and Revata, Sambhūta Sānavāsi, Yasa and Sumana from the West (Pāveyyaka). Of them Vāsabhagāmī and Sumana were the pupils of Anuruddha; the rest were the disciples of Ānanda.

According to Cullavagga Sabbakāmi was recognised as the Saṅghathera on the Buddhist world and Revata as the leader of the council. According to Mahāsaṅghika Vinaya, Yasa was the president of the council. Ajita was the elected seat-regulator and was authorised to recite the Pātimokkha and was the secretary of that arbitration court.

According to Bu-ston, both Sabbakāmi and khujjasobhita were of equal importance. Thus, it is seen that there was no elected president in the second council and the matter was entrusted to a committee of jury.

When the Saṅgha started to examine the ten points raised by the Vajjian monks, the great thera Revata skilled in questioning questioned the thera Sabbakāmi on each one of these points.Every point was examined separately and elaborately. After a deep and thorough discussion the ten points were declared unlawful as these points were against the Vinaya discipline. Thus the great theras proved the error of the heretical bhikkhus who practised the ten indulgences.

The unanimous verdict of the council declared the conduct of the Vajjian monks to be unlawful.

According to Dīpavaṃsa, the second council had been continued for eight months on the Kuṭāgāra hall of Vaiśāli. The vajjian monks did not accept the resolutions adopted by the second council and as a result they were expelled from the Saṃgha. They had a separate great council (Mahāsaṅgīti) consisting of ten thousand members. There they altered some portions of the Suttas and Vinaya and texts like Parivāra which is an abstract of the Vinaya, the six sections of the Abhidhamma, the Paṭisambhidā, the Niddesa and some portions of the Jātaka and produced new ones. They also changed the original rules regarding nouns, genders, composition and the ornamentations of style.

A common Pāli narrative of the second council is found in the Vinayas of the several sects of the Northern traditions e.g. the Mahāsaṅghikas, the Mūla-Sarvāstivādins, the Darmaguptasand the Mahīsāsakas.In spite of minor differences in these narratives, the subject matter discussed is more or less same in the Pāli tradition and in the northern tradition. The narratives of the Second Council described in the Cullavagga are also found in the Tibetan and Chinese sources and the Ārya-Mañjuśrī-mūla-kalpa of the Sanskrit source with slight variation.

Buddhaghosa in his Samantapāsādikā mentions that, seven hundred Arahats recited the Dhamma and the Vinaya at the end and a new edition of Piṭakas; Nikāyas, Aṅgas and Dhammakkhandas were made.

The Historical Authenticity of the Second Council:

It appears from different accounts that the authenticity of the Vaiśāli council is much more controversial than the Rājagṭha Council. The Dīpavaṃsa describes the Second Council at two places. The first description is similar to that found in the Cullavagga and the second one gives some elaborate informations.

The Pāli traditions and the Northern traditions differ in many ways. According to Pali traditions the second council had happened hundred years after the parinibbāna of the Buddha. It is hundred and ten years by the northern traditions.

The place of the council, reign of the king at that time and the number of participants differ in different accounts. The monastries like Vālukārāma, Kuṭāgārasālā, Kusumpura; the kings like Kālāśoka, Nanda, Mahāpadma and Aśoka are found in different narratives. The number of participants varies from 700 to 1,,.

Yuan Chwang and the Tibetan Dulvā give some extra information about eight members of a jury which is shown in the table below:

Name of the members of judges. Age Residence mentioned in the...
[Cullavagga] [Dulvā] [By Yuan-Chwang]
Sabbakāmi 140 Vaiśāli Vaiśāli —-
Khujjasobhita 120 of the East Pāṭaliputra Pāṭaliputra
Sālha 120 of the East Soṇaka Vaiśāli
Revata 120 Soreyya Sahadsha Sa-han-no
Sambhuto Sāṇavāsi 120 Ahogangā hill Māhismati Mathurā
Yasa 165 of the West Soṇaka Kosala
Vāsabhagāmika 120 of the East Sāṃkāśya —-
Sumana 120 of the West —- —-

In the above table first six Theras are pupils of Ānanda and the rest are the pupils of Anuruddha. In spite of these minor differences there is substantial agreement on the genesis of the council and the matter discussed and decided.

H.Oldenberg, R.O, Franke throw doubt on the genuinness of the council as it had no connection with the Sacred Texts.

H.Kern is of the view that the council at Vaśāli has a historical base but had no connection with the schism of the Mahāsaṇghikas.

M.Hofinger says that the Vaiśāli council convened to settle the conflict between the Vajjiputtakas and the rest of community is not a fiction. The council account is previous to the schism which separated the Mahāsaṅghikas from the Sthaviras. The legend was gradually grown and was accepted by all traditions.

In spite of conflicting materials of the narratives of the council and of the various opinions of the scholars the narration of Second Council has been accepted as genuine by the majority resulting in a schism in the Buddhist Saṃgha.

Pāṭaliputra Council on Mahādeva’s Five Points:

The Second great Council at Vaiśāli was followed after sometime by another council known as the Mahāsaṅgīti attended by 10, monks. The first doctrinal controversy arose in the Buddhist Saṅgha due to the five suggestions of Mahādeva, in this Mahāsaṅgīti. The traditions of Bhavya, Vasumitra and Vinītadeva have the same opinion that the division in the original Saṅgha into Sthavira and the Mahāsaṅghika arose due to five points of Mahādeva and not because of ten un-Vinayik acts of Vajjian monks. According to non-Pāli soueces (Sanskrit, Tibetan and Chinese) this Pāṭaliputra Council of Mahādeva’s five points regarding the status of an Arahat was held during the reign of Mahāpadma or Nanda Circa 110-137 A.N.

The Pāṭaliputra Council of Northern tradition is mentioned only in the the following works in Tibetan and Chinese versions only.

1. The Mahāprajñāpāramitā (Upadeśa) Śāstra (Taisho, 1509, p.a.).

2. The Samayabhedoparacanacakra of Vasumitra or the Wheel of the statements of the dissension of the doctrines. (Taisho,No. 2031-2033; Tanjur-Mdo, XC, No. ii).

3 & 4. The Nikāyabhedovibhaṅgavyākhyāna of Bhavya, two lists. (Tanjur-Mdo XC, No. 11).

The five views of Mahādeva are as follows:

1. An Arahat may commit a sin under unconscious temptation.(Kathavatthu, II. 1)

2. One may be an Arahat and not know it. (Kathavatthu, II. 2)

3. An Arahat may have doubts on matters of doctrine. (Kathavatthu, II. 3)

4. An Arahat cannot attain arahatship without the help of a teacher. (Kathavatthu, II. 4)

5. The path is attained by an exclamation as ‘aho’ i.e., one meditating seriously on religion may take such an exclamation as ‘How sad’ and by so doing, he attains progress towards perfection. (Kathavatthu, II. 3 & 4, XI,).

A great dispute arose against Mahadeva’s five points. Mahādeva’s theory hit directly the heart of the Buddhist philosophy. The Sthaviras said that these were Mahādeva’s invention, and against the words of the Buddha. These tenets were discussed seriously among the four parties in the Buddhist Saṅgha at Pāṭaliputra and there arose immense controversies. The main thrust of Mahādeva’s thesis is that an Arhat is a human being who is subject to human failings, viz. defilement, ignorance, doubt, the dependence on a teacher as to the success to the path.

Many traditional accounts mentioned this schismatic person Mahādeva. The Shan-Chien-lu-Vibhāṣā and different Pāli works referred Mahādeva. Mahadeva was a religious person and was capable of taking leadership. Moggaliputta-tissa Thera sent him to the Mahiṣamaṇḍala (Andhra Pradesh) after the third council of Aśoka.

In the Mahāsaṇghika tradition he was a monk having the responsibility to develope the ancient Vinaya Piṭaka.

According to Sammitiya tradition, in the previous birth he was the Māra alias Bhadra an expert in black magic who tried a lot to split the assembly of monks.

A.Bareau thinks that, the head of the future Mahāsaṅghika sect who was a man of great personality and influence was this Mahadeva.

According to Bhavya, the five point opinions of Mahadeva was warmly received by the learned monks, as a result the Saṅgha had been divided into various sects.

The Pāli Kathāvatthu described these five points as heretical tenets.

Reshaping of the Canon:

According to Dīpavaṃsa, the Mahāsaṃghikas reshaped the entire canon by rejecting the Parivāra, the six sections of the Abhidhamma, Paṭisaṃbhidā, the Niddesa and some of the Jātakas. They composed new texts and changed the ornamentation of style.

According to Paramārtha, the Mahāyānists added in the canon, the sutras such as Avataṃsikā, the Prajñāpāamitā [Prajñāpāramitā?], the Nirvāṇa, the Śrīmālā, the Vimalakīrti and Suvarṇaprabhāṣa. Mahāsaṅghikas were divided into three sects due to the insertion of these Mahāyāna sutras in the canon.

Yuan Chwang said that the Mahāsaṅghikas had five canonical books, named Sūtras, Vinaya, Abhidharma, Samyukta and Dhāraṇī Piṭaka collected in the council.

From the above discussion it is clear that with the rise of the sects the Buddhist canonical books had been reshaped.

The Date, Place and sovereign of the Pāṭaliputra Council:

There is a lot of controversy about the date when the schism occurred and under whom and where the Pāṭaliputra council on Mahādeva’s five points was convened. According to Dīpavaṃsa and the Mahāprajñāpāramitā Śāstra, schism follows the council of Vaiśāli which is in 100 A.N. According to Vasumitra’s account it is 116 A.N. or more than

years after Parinirvāṇa of the Buddha. It is 137 A.N. according to Nikāyabhedavibhaṇgavyākhyāna’s second list and 160 A.N. according to first list of the same.

Most of the sources are unanimas that Pāṭaliputra was the venue of the council. The Sarvāstivādin and Sammitiya traditions asserted that it was Pāṭaliputra or Kusumapurā, the capital of Magadha. The Mahāsaṃghika and Sinhalese traditions do not give any name or place. The Vibhāṣā mentioned, the schism happened at Kukkutārāma monestary of Pāṭaliputra Kusumapurā.

Great confusion arose in determining the reigning king connected with the Vaiśāli council and Pāṭaliputra council on Mahādeva’s five point. The two Aśokas viz. Kālāśoka and Dharmāśoka of Pāli tradition corresponds to only one Aśoka of the Sanskrit tradition.

Cullavagga of the Theravadins does not throw any light on the second council.

Pāli sources like the Dīpavaṃsa, the Mahāvaṃsa and the Samantapāsādikā mention the name of the King Kālāśoka and that the Third Council held at Pāṭaliputra in 236 A.N. under Dharmāśoka.

Vasumitra, says that the Pāṭaliputra council was held under the patronage of Aśoka in 100 A.N. Vaiśāli council is absent in his narration.

Paramārtha tells of a second gathering at Kusumapura during the time of Aśoka the great, of Magadha in 116 A.N.

Yuan Chwang knows only one Aśoka whom he names Wu-Yan or O-Shukia and places his reign 100 A.N.

Only Bhavya of the Sammitiyas reported that Nandas were the sovereigns of Magadha and at the time of Mahāpadma’s reign a council following the second one of Vaiśāli of the Sthaviras was held.

The Mahīsāsakas, the Dharmaguptas and the Staviravādins, narrate the Second Council took place 110 years after the parinirvāna of the Buddha without any mention of the reigining king and the subsequent council after the Vaiśāli.

Various informations from several ancient traditions creat great confusion among scholars like W.Geiger, Filliozat, Andre Bareau, and M.Hofinger. After comparing all the traditions like Sinhalese, Burmese, Nepalese, Jain, and Brahmanical along with the Purānas they believe Pāli sources more dependable for understanding the history of Buddhism.

Jacobi prefers Jain texts. He believes Kākavarnin or Kālāśoka is the Udāyin of the Jain Texts because both of them transfered the royal residence from Rājagṭha to Pāṭaliputra.

The Vibhāṣā and Sāriputraparipṛcchā Sūtra are also silent about the reigning king. According to Dr.Sumangal Barua, if the arbitrator king of Pāṭaliputra Council on Mahādeva’s five points was Dharmāśoka, at least traditional accounts would not have fotgotten his name. The judgement was given in favour of majority rather than in support of the elite as does Dharmāśoka in the Third Council of the Theravāda tradition. It implies that the king was not interested to know what is right or wrong. Therefore it seems that he was not a Buddhist ruler and therefore definitely not Dharmāśoka.

It is asserted in the Dīpavaṃsa, that at the time of Vaśiāli Council King Aśoka, son of Sisunāga was reigning in Pāṭaliputra. In Mahāvaṃsa, he is Kālāśoka.

J. Fillozat identifies Kālāśoka as Kākavarnin, son of Sisunāga of the Purāṇas and as Kākavarnin of the Aśokāvadāna. Geiger also says in favour of Fillozat. Thus, it becomes clear that Kālāśoka and Dharmāśoka are different personalities.

Vasumitra says that as Kālāśoka ruled from 90 A.N. to 118 A.N. and Pāṭaliputra Council of Northern tradition took place in 116 A.N. then it had to take place under Kālāśoka’s reign. J.Filliozat thinks that, it was King Kālaśoka who reigned at the time of Vaśāli Council.

Bu-ston says that the council was held at the Kusumapura monestry of Vaiśāli under the king Dhammāśoka.

According to Tārānāth, it was king Nandin of Licchavi race at Kusumapuri monestry. But Filliozat says that this happy king Nandin is actually King Kālāśoka, son of Sisunāga of the Licchavi race. Tārānāth also says that, the Vaiśāli council was held at the time of King Aśoka, son of Nemitta, because the Licchavis ruled over Vaiśāli and it was a part of Magadha since the King Ajātasatru’s reign. Another reason to recognize King Nandin as King Asoka is due to the fact that, the king of Magadha must rule over Vaśāli when the council was held.

The Dīpavaṃsa and the Mahāvaṃsa clearly say that the Second Council of Vaisali results in schism at the time of King Kālāsoka. Several other sources narrate that the Nanda dynasty was ruling simaltaneously and in the year 137 A.N. and that Mahāpadma replaced the Nanda. But the Purāṇas described Mahāpadma as the founder of the Nanda dynasty. The name Nanda is the name of a dynasty and not describes any personal name.

On the basis ofthe above discussion we can say that Kālāśoka of the Pāli tradition and Nandin of the Sanskrit sources were the sovreigns respectively during whose reigns the second council of Vaiśāli and the another of Northern tradition on Mahādeva’s five points were held.

Dissension in the Saṅgha and evolution of early Buddhist Sects:

The Second general Council is remarkable for the dissension in the Saṃgha and evolution of early Buddhist sects. By the informations collected from the Northern traditions, scholars are of the opinion that the conflict was limited within the members of the Vaiśāli council. Rapidly it spread to various Saṃghas. Two main sects: Sthaviras and the Mahāsṇaghikas come out as a result. The aim of all the councils was to bring the unity in the Saṅgha but here the result was an official recognition of both the divisions.

According to the Dīpavaṃsa, the Mahāsaṅghika school following the law of nature could not remain unsplitted for a long time. Shortly several sects came into existence having little differences in their Vinaya or the disciplinary rules.

Yuan Chwang asserted that the chief learning centres of the Mahāsaṅghikas were Vaiśāli and Pāṭaliputra. Fa-hien also found the followers of the Vinaya of the Mahāsaṅghika School in these localities. Gradually the Sthaviras started leaving Pāṭaliputra and stayed at Kausāmbī, Mathura and Avanti, where they were influencial and majority in number.

It is asserted in the Dipavamsa that, the dissension in the Saṅgha gradually increased and within a century eighteen sects comes out after the Vaiśāli council. The orthodox school of the Theras were split up into eleven sects and remained as Theravādins throughout their existence.

The Dīpavaṃsa continued to say that, the Sthaviras at first splitted into two main divisions, viz, the Mahimsāsakas and the Vajjiputtakas. The Mahimsāsakas then splitted into two divisions: viz, Sabbatthivādas and Dhammaguttas. These two divisions further divided into the Sabbatthivādas and Kassapikas; the Kassapikas and Samkantikas, and the Suttavadins. From the Vajjiputtakas four schools arose: viz, the Dhammuttarikas, Bhaddayānikas, Channagārikas, and Sammitis. The Sthaviras were splitted into total eleven schools.

The Mahāsaṅghikas gradually deviated from the original Theravada doctrine and were splitted into seven schools. At first the Mahāsaṅghika monks were divided into two divisions, namely, the Gokulika and Ekabyohāra. Again, two schisms took place amongst the Gokulikas: the Bahussutaka and the Paññatti Bhikkhus. Another division of the Mahasanghikas were the Cetiyas. These five schools were originated from the Mahasanghikas. The future Mahāyāna school which emerged in the 1st century A.D. owed their origin from the liberal view of the Mahāsaṅghikas.

The information of the early Buddhist sects is mainly derived from the following accounts.

Amongst the Theravāda tradition were the Dīpavaṃsa; Sammitiya by Bhavya and Kathāvatthu Aṭṭakathā by Buddhaghosa.

Śāriputraparipṛcchā Sūtra and the tradition preserved by the second list of Bhavya belong to the Mahāsaṅghika School.

From the Sarvāstivāda tradition we get informations from Vasumitra’s Samayabhedoparacanacakra and the tradition preserved in the first list of Bhavya.

Among the Mūla-Sarvāstivāda School were the t-sing’s and Vinītadeva’s tradition.

Thus the dissension in the Sangha ultimately gave rise to eighteen sects (seventeen heretical sects and one original orthodox sect).The number eighteen is traditional but in fact the sects recorded are more than this number. According to Dīpavaṃsa, heretical sects like Hemavatikas, Rājagirikas, Siddhatthas, Pubba and Apparaselikas and sixthly the Apara Rājagirikas arose one after the other.

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