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The Ancient Thera


Venerable Acara Suvanno Mahathera

A n Investigative Dhamma

The Six Councils

The Thera Elders

Venerable Acara Suvanno Mahathera
An Investigative Dhamma
Collated by Jinavamsa

Published by Leong Yok Kee

Unit E2L4A
Selesa Hillhomes
Bukit Tinggi
28750 Bentong

Copyright @2010 by Leong Yok Kee

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without prior written permission from the publisher.

Front and back cover by Leong Yok Kee

Title: The Ancient Thera Councils

Author: Leong Yok Kee
Buddhism - customs and practices
Buddhism - doctrines

Published in Kuala Lumpur

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The Six Councils of the Thera Elders

Prologue 7
H.G.Wells: The Outline of History 8
H.G.Wells: The Corruption of Buddhism 16
Foreword 17
Introduction: The Six Theravada Councils 25
Ageless Words 42
Chronological Order of the Six Councils 48
1st Council 53
2nd Council 64
3rd Council 69
Buddhism’s Disappearance from India 76
4th Council 80
5th Council 82
6th Council 83

Study Notes 85
The Story of Nigrodha 85
Appamada Vagga 86
Vassa 87
Maha Kassapa 88
Four Stages of Arahant 92
Vinaya Rules 93
Relinguishing the Will to Live 95
Maha Papajati Gotami 102
Cause of Pollution of the True Dhamma 104
The Tipitaka - Original Words 110


rateful Thanks are extended to All those who have helped
in their special way to make this Dhamma Gift available
to those who are seeking the Truth.

A Very Special thanks must be rendered to Ms. Carol Law for

painstakingly proof-reading and improving the oft changing draft
presented to her on as many occasions. From the myriad times
she has proof-read this manuscript she would have realised the
inconsistency and impermanence of existence.

To those of you who made the request to remain anonymous,

grateful thanks are also rendered and to those whom I have
missed mentioning, no less are your merits.

Grateful thanks are very much due to you who have made
donations to the printing of this Dhamma literature; without
which it will definitely not see the light of day. Sadhu! Sadhu!

The publisher is much encouraged by the support and generosity

that enabled this Dhamma literature to be printed for Free
Distribution. Balance of funds will be channelled to future

Grateful appreciation of the donation of a Buddha rupa by:

Tham Kok Hee, Yeoh Cheang Pew, Lai Kok Cheong, Lai Kok
Hong, Lai Kok Heng, Lai Phooi Keng, Lau Chee Yong, Looi Swee
Seng, Mah Siew Khoon, Mah Siew Soon, OK Teck, Oh Teik Bin,
Teh Kee Keang & Sister Tan, Yeoh Suan Chioh, Bee Heang Choo,
Chan Soon Chuan, Hor Ah Ha, Loo Chee Keong, Tan Choon
Koong, Tan Yau Thuen, Teh Chiew Swee, Steven Lee, Susie Lai,
Lai Lye Bee (Mimi), Ang Suan Choo, Ong Poh Choo, Khor Bee
Hiong, Kok Khun Ying,
Ying, Chu, Mooi
Mooi Sing and Family.


This Dhamma literature is distributed free of charge, having been

financially brought to you by those who have appreciated and
realised the Buddha’s teachings through the talks by Bhante
Suvanno in his lifetime of bhikkhuhood.

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The reality of the Dhamma of the Self-Enlightened One, The
Buddha, is a progressively evolving journey, an investigative
journey; a very long journey that has no parallel; for it is a
journey as if one is on a raft that oft times sails through calm
waters, sweet and pleasant; it can of a sudden enter stretches of
turbulent malodorous sewage pools, clutching and overpowering;
it can squeeze through tiny crevices storming into vast deep
rapids of icy cold snow fields; it goes on and on; until when one
hits upon the tiny outlet stream that runs into the ancient sea of
knowledge that allows one to gently be absorbed into the cool
waters of Nibbana.

On such a journey, one may not necessary be possessed of a

religious tendency; one will be a lost “self”, seeking a cure for a
dire disease; the disease of a sick personality, deluded to imagine
it can achieve all its desires with the sole power of the self.
Through the thick faecal slough of delusion layered on through
aeons upon aeons, one may, if one is so endowed with past
merits, at some stage hit upon the Dhamma turn off. If so, great
congratulations and great joy for within kaleidoscopes of little
street bulbs of wisdom appearing upon the journey one may be
struck with the final starburst and attain to the highest goal of all
times – freedom from rebirth.

The Sole Being that pried open the doorway to The Path gave
specific directions to the key. It was not his intention to keep the
secret to himself; once he had discovered the key, it was his
earnest desire to share the secret with those who were sufficiently
well disposed meritoriously and wise and who desired the secret
too. He spent quite a number of years to pass the key to those
who saw the benefit of it; alas, few realise the wonder of the
secret. To those who do, let us begin the Dhamma journey from
the outside. Let us begin by studying the view of one of the
greatest historian of our times; H.G. Wells, as he wrote about the
beginning of the journey we have been favoured with.


Being a Plain History of Life and Mankind
The Rise and Spread of Buddhism

Quote: It was somewhere between 500 and 600 B.C., when

Croesus was flourishing in Lydia and Cyrus was preparing to
snatch Babylon from Nabonidus, that the founder of Buddhism
was born in India. He was born in a small republican tribal
community in the north of Bengal under the Himalayas, in what
is now overgrown jungle country on the border of Nepal.

The little state was ruled by a family, the Sakya clan, of which this
man, Siddhattha Gautama, was a member. Siddhattha was his
personal name, like Caius or John; Gautama, or Gotama, his
family name, like Caesar or Smith; Sakya his clan name, like
Julius. The institution of caste was not yet fully established in
India, and the Brahmins, though they were privileged and
influential, had not yet struggled to the head of the system; but
there were already strongly marked class distinctions and a
practically impermeable partition between the noble Aryans and
the darker common people. Gautama belonged to the former
race. His teaching, we may note, was called the Aryan Path, the
Aryan Truth.

It is only within the last half-century that the increasing study of

the Pali language, in which most of the original source material
were written, has given the world a factual knowledge of the life
and actual thought of Gautama. Previously his story was overlaid
by monstrous accumulations of legend, and his teaching violently
misconceived. But now we have a very human and
understandable account of him.

He was a good-looking, capable young man of fortune, and until

he was twenty-nine he lived the ordinary aristocratic life of his
time. It was not a very satisfying life intellectually. There was no
literature except the oral tradition of the Vedas, and that was
chiefly monopolised by the Brahmins; there was even less
knowledge. The world was bound by the snowy Himalayas to
the north and spread indefinitely to the south. The city of

Benares, which had a king, was about a hundred miles away. The
chief amusements were hunting and lovemaking. All the good
that life seemed to offer, Gautama enjoyed. He was married at
nineteen to a beautiful cousin. For some years they remained
childless. He hunted and played and went about in his sunny
world of gardens and groves and irrigated rice-fields.

And it was amidst this life that a great discontent fell upon him. It
was the unhappiness of a fine brain that seeks employment. He
lived amidst plenty and beauty, he passed from gratification to
gratification, and his soul was not satisfied. It was as if he heard
the destinies of the race calling to him. He felt that the existence
he was leading was not the reality of life, but a holiday; a holiday
that had gone on too long.

While he was in this mood he saw four

things that served to point his thoughts. He
was driving on some excursion of pleasure,
when he came upon a man dreadfully
broken down by age. The poor bent,
enfeebled creature struck his imagination.
‘Such is the way of life’, said Channa, his
charioteer, and ‘to that we must all come’.
While this was yet in his mind he chanced
upon a man suffering horribly from some
loathsome disease. ‘Such is the way of life’,
said Channa. The third vision was of an
unburied body, swollen, eyeless, mauled by
passing birds and beasts and altogether
terrible. ‘That is the way of life’, said

The sense of disease and mortality, the

insecurity and the unsatisfactoriness of all
happiness, descended upon the mind of
Gautama. And then he and Channa saw one
of those wandering ascetics who already
existed in great numbers in India. These men lived under severe
rules, spending much time in meditation and in religious

discussion. For many men before Gautama in that land of

uneventful sunshine had found life distressing and mysterious.
These ascetics were all supposed to be seeking some deeper
reality in life, and a passionate desire to do like-wise took
possession of Gautama.

He was contemplating upon this project says the story, when the
news was brought to him that his wife had been delivered of his
first-born son. ‘This is another tie to break’, said Gautama.

He returned to the village amidst the rejoicings of his fellow

clansmen. There was a great feast and a Nautch dance (traditional
Indian dance) to celebrate the birth of this new tie, and in the
night Gautama awoke in a great agony of spirit, ‘like a man who
is told that his house is on fire’.

In the ante-room the dancing girls were lying in strips of darkness

and moonlight. He called Channa, and told him to prepare his
horse. Then he went softly to the threshold of his wife's chamber,
and saw her by the light of a little oil lamp, sleeping sweetly,
surrounded by flowers, with his infant son in her arm. He felt a
great craving to take up the child in one first and last embrace
before he departed, but the fear of waking his wife prevented
him, and at last he turned away and went out into the bright
Indian moonshine to Channa waiting with the horses, mounted
and stole away.

As he rode through the night

with Channa, it seemed to
him that Mara, the Tempter
of Mankind, filled the sky
and disputed with him.
‘Return’, said Mara, ‘and be
a king, and I will make you
the greatest of kings. Go on,
and you will fail. Never will
I cease to dog your footsteps. Lust or malice or anger will betray
you at last in some unwary moment; sooner, or later you will be

Very far they rode that night, and in the morning he stopped,
outside the lands of his clan, and dismounted beside a sandy
river. There he cut off his flowing locks with his sword, removed
all his ornaments, and sent them and his horse and sword back to
his house by Channa.

Then going on he presently met a ragged man and exchanged

clothes with him, and so having divested himself of all worldly
entanglements, he was free to pursue his search after wisdom.

He made his way southward to a resort of hermits and teachers in

a hilly spur running into Bengal northward from the Vindhya
Mountains, close to the town of Rajgir. There a number of wise
men lived in a warren of caves, going into the town for their
simple supplies and imparting their knowledge by word of mouth
to such as cared to come to them.

This instruction must have been very much in the style of the
Socratic discussions that were going on in Athens a couple of
centuries later. Gautama became versed in all the metaphysics of
his age. But his acute intelligence was dissatisfied with the
solutions offered him.

The Indian mind has always been disposed to believe that power
and knowledge may be obtained by extreme asceticism, by
fasting, sleeplessness, and self-torment, and these ideas Gautama
now put to the test. He betook himself with five disciple
companions to the jungle in a gorge in the Vindhya Mountains,
and there he gave himself up to fasting and terrible penances. His
fame spread, ‘like the sound of a great bell hung in the canopy of
the skies’, but it brought him no sense of truth achieved.

One day he was walking up and down, trying to think in spite of

his enfeebled state. Suddenly he staggered and fell unconscious.
When he recovered, the preposterousness of these semi-magic
ways of attempting wisdom was plain to him.

He amazed and horrified his five companions by demanding

ordinary food and refusing to continue his self-mortifications. He

had realised that whatever truth a man may reach is reached best
by a nourished brain in a healthy body. Such a conception was
absolutely foreign to the ideas of the land and age. His disciples
deserted him, and went off in a melancholy state to Benares. The
boom of the great bell ceased. Gautama the wonderful had

For a time Gautama wandered alone, the

loneliest figure in history, battling for light.

When the mind grapples with a great and

intricate problem, it makes its advances, it
secures its positions step by step, with but
little realisation of the gains it has made,
until suddenly, with an effect of abrupt
illumination, it realises its victory. So it
would seem it happened to Gautama. He
had seated himself under a great tree by the side of a river to eat,
when this sense of clear vision came to him. It seemed to him that
he saw life plain. He is said to have sat all day and all night in
profound thought, and then he rose up to impart his vision to the

Such is the plain story of Gautama as we gather it from a

comparison of early writings. But common men must have their
cheap marvels and wonders. It is nothing to them that this little
planet should at last produce upon its surface a man thinking of
the past and the future and the essential nature of existence. And
so we must have this sort of thing by some worthy Pali scribe,
making the most of it:

‘When the conflict began between the Saviour of the World and
the Prince of Evil a thousand appalling meteors fell. . . . Rivers
flowed back towards their sources; peaks and lofty mountains
where countless trees had grown for ages rolled crumbling to the
earth . . . the sun enveloped itself in awful darkness, and a host of
headless spirits filled the air’.

Of which phenomena history has preserved no authentication.

Instead we have only the figure of a lonely man walking towards

Extraordinary attention has been given to the tree under which

Gautama had this sense of mental clarity. It was a tree of the fig
genus, and from the first it was treated with peculiar veneration.
It was called the Bo Tree. It has long since perished, but close at
hand lives another great tree which may be its descendant, and in
Ceylon there grows to this day a tree, the oldest historical tree in
the world, which we know certainly to have been planted as a
cutting from the Bo Tree in the year 245 B.C. From that time to
this it has been carefully tended and watered; its great branches
are supported by pillars, and the earth has been terraced up
about it so that it has been able to put out fresh roots continually.

It helps us to realise the shortness of all human history to see so

many generations spanned by the endurance of one single tree.
Gautama's disciples unhappily have cared more for the
preservation of his tree than of his thought, which from the first
they misconceived and distorted.

At Benares, Gautama sought out his five pupils, who were still
leading the ascetic life. There is an account of their hesitation to
receive him when they saw him approaching. He was a
backslider. But there was some power of personality in him that
prevailed over their coldness, and he made them listen to his new
convictions. For five days the discussion was carried on. When he
had at last convinced them that he was now enlightened, they
hailed him as the Buddha. There was, already in those days a
belief in India that at long intervals Wisdom returned to the earth
and was revealed to mankind through a chosen person known as
the Buddha.

According to Indian belief there have been many such Buddhas;

Gautama Buddha is only the latest one of a series. But it is
doubtful if he himself accepted that title or recognised that
theory. In his discourses he never called himself the Buddha.

He and his recovered disciples then formed a sort of Academy in

the Deer Park at Benares. They made themselves huts, and
accumulated other followers to the number of threescore or

In the rainy season they remained in discourse at this settlement,

and during the dry weather they dispersed about the country,
each giving his version of the new teachings. All their teaching
was done, it would seem, by word of mouth. There was
probably no writing yet in India at all. We must remember that in
the time of Buddha it is doubtful if even the Iliad had been
committed to writing. Probably the Mediterranean alphabet,
which is the basis of most Indian scripts, had not yet reached
India. The master, therefore, worked out and composed pithy
and brief verses, aphorisms, and lists of ‘points’, and these were
expanded in the discourse of his disciples. It greatly helped them
to have these points and aphorisms numbered. The modern mind
is apt to be impatient of the tendency of Indian thought to a
numerical statement of things, the Eightfold Path, the Four Truths,
and so on, but this enumeration was a mnemonic necessity in an
undocumented world.

The Dhamma of Gautama Buddha

The fundamental teaching of Gautama, as it is now being made
plain to us by the study of original sources, is clear and simple
and in the closest harmony with modern ideas. It is beyond all
dispute the achievement of one of the most penetrating
intelligences the world has ever known.

We have what are almost certainly the authentic heads of his

discourse to the five disciples which embodies his essential
doctrine. All the miseries and discontents of life he traces to
insatiable selfishness. Suffering, he teaches, is due to the craving
individuality, to the torment of greedy desire.

Until a man has overcome every sort of personal craving his life is
trouble and his end sorrow. There are three principal forms the
craving of life takes, and all are evil.

The first is the desire to gratify the senses, sensuousness. The

second is the desire for personal immortality. The third is the
desire for prosperity, worldliness. All these must be overcome
‘that is to say, a man must no longer be living for himself’ before
life can become serene. But when they are indeed overcome and
no longer rule a man's life, when the first personal pronoun has
vanished from his private thoughts, then he has reached the
higher wisdom, Nirvana, serenity of soul. For Nirvana does not
mean, as many people wrongly believe, extinction, but the
extinction of the futile personal aims that necessarily make life
base or pitiful or dreadful.

Now here, surely we have the completest analysis of the problem

of the soul's peace. Every religion that is worth the name, every
philosophy, warns us to lose ourselves in something greater than
ourselves. ‘Whosoever would save his life, shall lose it’, there is
exactly the same lesson.

The teaching of history, as we are unfolding it in this book, is

strictly in accordance with this teaching of Buddha. There is, as
we are seeing, no social order, no security, no peace or
happiness, no righteous leadership or kingship, unless men lose
themselves in something greater than themselves. The study of
biological progress again reveals exactly the same process; the
merger of the narrow globe of the individual experience in a
wider being. To forget oneself in greater interests is to escape
from a prison.

The self-abnegation must be complete. From the point of view of

Gautama, that dread of death, that greed for an endless
continuation of his mean little individual life which drove the
Egyptian and those who learnt from him with propitiations and
charms into the temples, was as mortal and ugly and evil a thing
as lust or avarice or hate. The religion of Gautama is flatly
opposite to the ‘immortality’ religious. And his teaching is set like
flint against asceticism, as a mere attempt to win personal power
by personal pains. Unquote.

The Corruptions of Buddhism (excerpt)

Tibet to-day is a Buddhistic country, yet Gautama, could he

return to earth, might go from end to end of Tibet seeking his
own teaching in vain. He would find that most ancient type of
human ruler, a god-king, enthroned, the Dalai Lama, the ‘living
Buddha’. At Lhassa he would find a huge temple filled with
priests, abbots, and lamas; he, whose only buildings, were huts
and who made no priests; and above a high altar he would
behold a huge golden idol, which he would learn was called
‘Gautama Buddha’! He would hear services intoned before this
divinity, and certain precepts, which would be dimly familiar to
him, murmured as responses. Bells, incense, prostrations, would
play their part in these amazing proceedings. At one point in the
service a bell would be rung and a mirror lifted up, while the
whole congregation, in an access of reverence, bowed lower. . . .

About this Buddhist countryside he would discover a number of

curious little mechanisms, little wind-wheels and waterwheels
spinning, on which brief prayers were inscribed. Every time these
things spin, he would learn, it counts as a prayer. ‘To whom’ he
would ask. Moreover, there would be a number of flagstaffs in
the land carrying beautiful silk flags; silk flags which bore the
perplexing inscription, ‘Om Mani padme hum’, ‘the jewel is in
the lotus’. Whenever the flag flaps, he would learn, it was a
prayer also, very beneficial to the gentleman who paid for the
flag and to the land generally. Gangs of workmen, employed by
pious persons, would be going about the country cutting this
precious formula on cliff and stone. And this, he would realise at
last, was what the world had made of his religion! Beneath this
gaudy glitter was buried the Aryan Way to serenity of soul.

An Excerp
cerpt from
from The Sixteen Dreams of
of King Pasenadi
Bhante Suvanno, published in 2001

From the very unfathomable

beginning of their existence, the
inhabitants of the world have
generally lived as dictated by
their emotions of greed, anger
and delusion. Such powerfully
energised emotions swirling
within the immensity of timeless
aeons build up and retain
energies that are continuously changing form and never die away;
so much so that these energies will be the source that will upset
the natural sequence of ecological behavioural patterns in the
environment living beings exist.

From their greed, hatred and delusion, human kind have been
responsible for creating suffering and hardships for themselves
and others of their kind, begetting endless, deep rooted
defilement in their minds. The negative energies of these
defilement are affecting the natural environment of the universe,
and natural phenomena such as the temperature and the quality
of nutriments for humanity in their struggle for life.

The seasons and climates prevailing at present times, conditioned

by unnatural energies, become unbalanced, resulting in
unexpected upheavals in the world’s atmosphere. Even when the
rain clouds gather, thunder peals, lightning flashes and the signs of
rain and storms are evident, yet they subside and pass away and
the expected rain does not fall. Thus crops and produce are not
forthcoming. When it is time for dry weather, yet the skies drench
the earth with torrents of rain, flooding and destroying crops and
produce. These happenings are not rare and occasional, but as
humans deteriorate in their morality, natural phenomena too
become unpredictable, thus causing great difficulties and suffering.
When the inhabitants of a country are in difficulties the whole
country is in turmoil.

When humans pollute the atmosphere with increasing

accumulation of greed, hatred and delusion, these defiled energies
become endemic and the world is gradually engulfed in the
atmosphere so created. In time to come, the Buddha said, such a
world will be consumed and destroyed by the fires of its own
creation. When defilement increases and becomes uncontrollable,
the world will experience great flooding.

In the coming times of doubtful values, rulers and those wielding

governing powers will, in their ignorance, compound the
situation with all sorts of self-serving, unwholesome speeches and
deeds that will accelerate and enhance future defilement.

Governments will plan and develop weapons purportedly for

self-defence but in actuality able to destroy other governments,
who will in their turn develop weapons of defence and advance
further in developing greater and more powerful weapons of
destruction. Countries will test their weapons and their readiness
to go to war and defend themselves. They will pollute the
atmosphere with their weapons and equipment! They will not do
good and will deliberately not differentiate right from wrong to
serve their own selfish ends. They will not respect one another's
integrity; the powerful will dominate the weak.

Further disasters will ensue and earthquakes and typhoons and

other calamities of vast proportions will be the order of the day
and will wreak untold suffering on mankind.

All these happenings have their root cause in men's greed, hatred
and delusion. Greed, hatred and delusion create unwholesome
energies which are powerfully destructive to the laws of nature.
However, it is the cumulative effects of countless existences and
the passing away of multitudes of humanity that create what is
known as kamma. Kamma is very profound and generally it is of
two types.

There is individual (or personal) kamma. This is the result of

actions performed by the individual, whether good or bad.

All forms of defilement create kamma in the present existence and

future rebirths and are cumulative. Such accumulation is known as
overflowing kamma or collective kamma, and to give a simile, it
can be compared to the overflowing of boiling rice. When rice
begins to boil, it overflows. The results of this form of kamma are
felt even when a being to be is in the mother's womb during
pregnancy. Overflow of good kamma, conditions good things to
the parents; unwholesome ones conditions unwholesome things,
even at the embryo stage of the being to be born. Kamma of this
nature is powerful and relentless and will cause upheavals in
natural phenomena such as climate, weather, temperature, the
winds and such like.

Then there is collective kamma. Each man’s kamma is his own

individual experience. No one can interfere with the kamma of
another beyond a certain point; therefore no one can intervene
to alter the results of another’s kamma.

Yet it often happens that numbers of people are associated in the

same kind of actions, and share the same kind of thoughts; they
become closely involved with one another; they influence one
another. Mass psychology produces mass kamma. Therefore all
such people are likely to form the same pattern of kamma. It may
result in their being associated with one another through a
number of lives, and in their sharing much of the same kind of
experience. Collective kamma is simply the aggregate of
individual kamma, just as a crowd is an aggregate of individuals.
(Francis Story: The Wheel Publication – Vol.XII)

The Buddha taught that unmindful thoughts, words and deeds

create defilement in the mind; as these thoughts are not pure,
speech and action too cannot be wholesome either. He further
said that the tendency in human beings to do evil deeds has
always been more prevalent than doing wholesome deeds. This is
due to people’s increasing greed, hatred and delusions, the three
major causes of suffering.

Wind-born diseases and water-born diseases will be rampant.

There will be pestilence and natural disasters; plagues of locusts,

typhoons, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and all

sorts of natural calamities will occur. Lack of proper hygiene,
health facilities, food and medicines, and the general ignorance of
the populace will exacerbate the dangers to the people and cause
hardship and suffering.

Scences of such disasters can be seen all over the world. In this
period, the year 2009, much of world is going through the throes
of mosquito borne diseases. All over the world people are
affected by this new disease and various other diseases as well.
One disease - AIDS - has claimed millions of lives and is still
spreading disastrously in Southern Africa, India, Eastern Europe
and elsewhere.

The present trends dictating human activities and life styles are
the diving boards for morality to spiral down towards lower
realms of existence in future rebirths. The resulting damages are
deeply rooted and of so vast a magnitude, through such a lengthy
span of time, that to reverse and stop them would be almost
impossible. However as individuals we can do so by bearing in
mind the basic teachings of the Buddha: Do not do evil, do good
and purify the mind.

Though conditions are universally unwholesome, one should not

be compelled and adversely influenced by them. By realising and
knowing the true nature of defilement and its effects on the
universe and its inhabitants, one can learn to live in a manner
that keeps one away from the defilement.

The Buddha saw the difficulty in teaching the Dhamma due its
profound nature; even so, he decided that for the good of the
few, he would endeavour to enlighten them. His Enlightenment
enabled him to recognise and teach those who were ready to
accept the Dhamma.

Thus, though we are in an environment of filth and dross we

should still practise good and wholesome habits to avoid the
defiled state.

The Buddha has taught us three ways of living away from the
defiled state we are caught in, these three ways are:

Do Not do Evil
Do Good
Purify the Mind
That is to say:
Keep the Precepts
Live according to the Dhamma
Practise Vipassana Meditation

1 Keeping the precepts; that is developing morality by

refraining from unwholesome deeds.

The five precepts are mostly recited in Pali. In the following the
original Pali text is given in italics, and the corresponding English
translation is given side by side:

1. Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami:

I undertake the precept of abstaining from the
destruction of life.
2. Adinnadana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami:
I undertake the precept of abstaining from taking that
which is not given.
3. Kamesu micchacara veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami:
I undertake the precept of abstaining from sexual
4. Musavada veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami:
I und
undertake the precept of abstaining from falsehood.
5. Suramerayamajjapamadatthana veramani sikkhapadam
I undertake the precept of abstaining from intoxicants
that cloud the mind and cause heedlessness.

The refrain "I undertake the precept of abstaining from ..." which
begins every precept clearly shows that these are not
commandments. They are, indeed, moral codes of conduct that
one willingly undertakes out of clear understanding and
conviction that they are good for oneself and for society.

By constant contemplation and being mindful of the intent of the

precepts, one tends to be aware of the moral quality of one’s
thoughts, speech and actions; thus one will act with restraint
when faced with unwholesome challenges. One will then be
guarded in thought, speech and action. In this way one will be
able to develop a noble morality in one’s life, reducing in one’s
own small way the defilement around the environment. Keeping
the Eight Precepts on certain Uposatha (holy days) days will be of
great spiritual benefit.

The Eight Precepts:

Certain changes are made in the 3rd Precept and with the addition
of 6, 7 and 8; the rest are the same as in the five precepts above.

3. Abrahmacariya veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami

I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual activity.
6. Vikalabhojana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain
refrain from eating
eating after the
noon period).
7. Nacca-gita-vadita-visukkadassana mala-gandha-vilepana-
dharana-mandana-vibhusanathana veramani
sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from dancing,
dancing, singing,
music, watching entertainments,
entertainments, wearing garlands, using
perfumes, and beautifying the body with cosmetics.
8. Uccasayana-mahasayana veramani sikkhapadam
I undertake the precept to refrain from lying on a high or
luxurious sleeping place.

2 Live according to the Dhamma

All defilement arises because of ignorance. By ignorance, the
Buddha really meant not knowing the real core of suffering, the
cause of suffering, and the way out of this suffering. Thus we
must learn the Dhamma lessons well.

These are the basic truths that one should be well-versed and
practised in, that will be essential in wiping away the ignorance
from one's mind and enable one to avoid evil and do good, thus

purifying the mind. It is only through contemplation and the

practice of meditation that one is able to gain wisdom and wipe
away ignorance, and though it may appear an easy matter, it will
require great determination to understand and follow the path of
such spiritual advancement.

3 Practising
Practising Vipassana Meditation
Meditation which will develop
concentration grad
gradually and finally leading to ultimate bliss.
The Buddha said: “Bhikkhus; there is only one way to the
purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and
lamentation, for the disappearance of pain and distress, for the
attainment of the right method and for the realisation of freedom
from suffering; that is; the four foundations of mindfulness".
(The Mahasatipatthana Sutta).

Thus, the Lord Buddha exhorted that we should spend real time
to learn and practise Vipassana Meditation; that is mindfulness of
our bodily actions, our feelings, our minds and the mental objects
arising due to workings of the mind.

These three forms of trainings will raise us above the levels of

living in the mundane field of defilement generated by
uncountable unwholesome actions so as to know the correct way
to practise.

In the days where unwholesomeness reigns, the Sangha, too, will

be infiltrated by those who are not practising the correct
teachings of the Buddha. At that time the Sasana will be waning
and the Sangha will be under the control of evil members, out
only for personal material gain and fame.

In the Anguttara Nikaya, the Book of the Ones the Buddha said:
“Monks, those monks who point out what is not Dhamma as
Dhamma, who point out what is not the Discipline as the
Discipline, and what is the Discipline as not the Discipline, who
point out what is not uttered by the Tathagata as uttered by the
Tathagata and what is uttered by the Tathagata as not uttered by
the Tathagata…, the conduct of such monks causes loss to many
folk, misery to many folk, loss and injury and misery to deva and

mankind. Moreover, such monks beget great demerit (to

themselves) and cause the disappearance of this true Dhamma.”

Unfortunately, how ever much we wish that was not so, what
the Buddha has said is coming to pass and the Dhamma is at
death’s doors; this is not to say we must give up all hopes of
achieving the Dhamma, but that we should strive strenuously at
least to seek the true Dhamma, practise it diligently and strive to
enter the stream of Nibbana, lest we find ourselves unable even
to find a footing to its shore.

These series of literature have been prepared for just that

eventuality; for we abide by the credo that the true Dhamma
must be made available should even a single being be seeking it.
For this purpose we shall lay before true seekers the path trodden
on by the Theras of old and how they pointed the way to the
Truth of the Buddha’s Dhamma.



The Maha Parinibbana

Parinibbana (part):
(part): Quote: And the Blessed One
recovered from that illness; and soon after His recovery He came
out from His dwelling place and sat down in the shade of the
building, on a seat prepared for Him.

Then the Venerable Ananda approached the Blessed One,

respectfully greeted him, and sitting down at one side, he spoke
to the Blessed One, saying:

"Fortunate it is for me, O Lord, to see the Blessed One at ease

again! Fortunate it is for me, O Lord, to see the Blessed One
recovered! For truly, Lord, when I saw the Blessed One's sickness
it was as though my own body became weak as a creeper, every
thing around became dim to me, and my senses failed me. Yet,
Lord, I still had some little comfort in the thought that the Blessed
One would not come to his final passing away until he had given
some last instructions respecting the community of bhikkhus."

Thus spoke the Venerable Ananda, but the Blessed One answered
him, saying: "What more does the community of bhikkhus expect
from me, Ananda? I have set forth the Dhamma without making
any distinction of esoteric and exoteric doctrine; there is nothing,
Ananda, with regard to the teachings that the Tathagata holds to
the last with the closed fist of a teacher who keeps some things

Whosoever may think that it is he who should lead the

community of bhikkhus, or that the community depends upon
him, it is such a one that would have to give last instructions
respecting them. But, Ananda, the Tathagata has no such idea as
that it is he who should lead the community of bhikkhus, or that
the community depends upon him. So what instructions should
he have to give respecting the community of bhikkhus?

"Now I am frail, Ananda, old, aged, far gone in years. This is my

eightieth year, and my life is spent; even as an old cart, Ananda,
is held together with much difficulty, so the body of the
Tathagata is kept going only with supports. It is, Ananda, only
when the Tathagata, disregarding external objects, with the
cessation of certain feelings, attains to and abides in the signless
concentration of mind, that his body is more comfortable.

Therefore, Ananda,
Be Islands unto Yourselves,
Refuges unto Yourselves, Seeking No External Refuge;
With the Dhamma as Your Island,
The Dhamma as Your Refuge,
Seeking No Other Ref

Thus, said the Lord at his final passing away.

His final words were that all should look towards His Teachings
as the teacher and not to any human leadership. In the final
analysis it is the teachings that He had left behind that will serve
as the teacher.

The teaching is unique in that the essence of it is to realise its truth

through experiencing the Dhamma for oneself. One cannot learn
it from books or by knowledge acquired from a third person. The
realisation of the Dhamma can only be through a process of
graduated training ending in the self eradication of defilement
and gaining freedom of mental effluent.

Only the practitioner can ascertain his own freedom from

defilement, no one else can. Thus, is the Dhamma unique.

Those arahants who were left behind at the Lord’s passing away
into Nibbana, knowing the intent of the Lord decided to ratify
His Teachings for posterity and thus they gathered at the town of
Rajagaha for this sole purpose.

In the time of the Buddha, it was the capital city of Magadha, and
is closely associated with the Buddha's life. He visited it soon after
His renunciation, journeying there on foot from the River Anoma,
a distance of a hundred and fifty kilometres.

The Buddha spent His first vassa in Rajagaha and continued on till
winter and the following summer. According to Scriptural Texts,
He also spent the third, fourth, seventeenth and twentieth vassa
in Rajagaha. It thus became the scene of several important suttas
and many of the Vinaya rules were formulated here. It was one
of the six chief cities of the Buddha's time, and it was also a much
frequented trading city where popular trade routes passed
through; routes that carry goods all over Hellenistic countries and
to the furthest shores in Asia and China. Just before His
Parinibbana, the Buddha paid a last visit there.

Other cities of comparable importance were Campa, Savatthi,

Saketa, Kosambi and Benares. These trade routes had very
significant bearings on the propagation of the Buddha’s teachings;
as traders passing through from other countries were able to hear
the Buddha’s Words during His life time. Thus, was the Dhamma
spread to other countries even before the Buddha’s Parinibbana.

It is possible that the Dhamma was brought to other countries by

traders who were impressed by the teachings. Countries as far as
China knew of the teachings even before the Parinibbana. This
had very far reaching influences in the corruption of the Dhamma
in later times, as those who did not have a full understanding of
His Words were bound to imagine and distort the Words and
even some realign the Words to adapt to their own beliefs and

After the Buddha's death, due to its suitability as to

accommodation and food supply, Rajagaha was chosen by Maha
Kassapa, as the meeting place of the First Council. This took place
at the Sattapanni Guha, and King Ajatasattu extended to the
Sangha his whole hearted patronage in the convening of the
recitation of the Dhamma-Vinaya. During the Council sitting, no
other bhikkhus were to be present in Rajagaha and no
disturbances were allowed in the city.

From Kapilavatthu to
Rajagaha was a distance of
three hundred kilometres.
From Rajagaha to Kusinara
was a distance of one hundred
and twenty five kilometres
and the Maha Parinibbana
Sutta gives a list of the places
at which the Buddha stopped during his last journey along that

From Rajagaha to the Ganges was a distance of twenty five

kilometres, and when the Buddha visited Vesali at the invitation
of the Licchavis, the kings on either side of the river vied with
each other to honour Him.

The Buddha expounded His Teachings for 45 years till He

reached the age of 80 and passed away into Parinibbana in the
year 543BC. Soon after His passing away, Rajagaha declined both
in importance and prosperity.

Three months before this, both His chief disciples, Sariputta and
Moggallana had passed away and the later chief disciple was
Maha Kassapa.

The Elder Maha Kassapa, with a large company of five hundred

bhikkhus of different levels of attainment in the Dhamma, was on
the road from Pava to Kusinara on the way to visit the Buddha,
not knowing that He had already passed away.

They had stopped for a while to rest and coming from the
opposite direction to them was an ascetic who had with him a
Mandarava flower, which is said to be found only in the celestial
worlds. When Maha Kassapa saw this, he knew that something
unusual must have happened for the flower to be found on earth.

He stopped and asked the ascetic whether he had any news from
where he was coming, and the ascetic replied that he had, saying:
‘The recluse Gotama passed into Nibbana a week ago. This
Mandarava flower I picked up from the place where He is to be

Among the bhikkhus who heard that message, only the arahants
like Maha Kassapa, remain composed and calm; while the others
who were still unliberated from the passions, lamented and wept:
‘Too soon has the Blessed One passed into Nibbana! Too soon
has the Eye of the World vanished from our sight’!

There was one bhikkhu however, Subhadda by name, who had

ordained in his old age. He addressed the other bhikkhus and said:
‘Enough, friends! Do not grieve, do not lament! We are well rid
of that Great Ascetic. We have been troubled by his telling us:
This is befitting, that is not befitting. Now we can do what we
like, and we won't have to do what we do not like’.

The Venerable Maha Kassapa not wishing to strike a discordant

note in the mixed group, kept silent and gave no reply to those
callous words. But, as we shall see later, Maha Kassapa quoted
that incident when he spoke of the need for convening a council.
At this moment, however, he consoled his group of bhikkhus and

advised them to be mindful that impermanence is the nature of

all conditioned things. They then continued their journey to

Until then it had not been possible to set the funeral pyre alight,
for unseen by those present, the deities present prevented the
pyre from being lit as they planned to wait until the Venerable
Maha Kassapa had arrived and paid his homage to the remains of
the Master.

When the Venerable Maha Kassapa finally arrived at the place of

cremation, he walked twice around the pyre, reverently, with
clasped hands, and then, with bowed head paid his homage at
the feet of the Tathagata. When his group of bhikkhus had done
likewise, the pyre, then lit by the unseen deities, burst into flames.

Hardly had the Tathagata been cremated then there arose a

conflict about the distribution of the relics among the assembled
kings and other dignitaries.

The Venerable Maha Kassapa remained aloof from the noisy

claimants, as did the other bhikkhus like Anuruddha and Ananda.
It was a respected brahman, Dona by name, who finally divided
the relics into eight portions and distributed them among the
eight claimants. He himself took the vessel in which the relics had
been collected. The Venerable Maha Kassapa himself brought to
King Ajatasattu of Magadha his portion of the relics.

Finally after all the business of the cremation and distribution of

relics had been completed, Maha Kassapa turned his thoughts to
the preservation of the Master's spiritual heritage, the Teaching
(Dhamma) and the Discipline (Vinaya).

King Bimbisara and Ajatasattu

The Bodhisatta, soon after having renounced the world and
became an ascetic, entered the city of Rajagaha and went house
to house on alms round. Unusually royal and princely looking, he
attracted a lot of attention; then having collected sufficient food
for his sustenance, he went to a shaded place to have his meal.

King Bimbisara, being told of his unusual presence approached

the Bodhisatta, and discerning in his princely deportment and
appearance, a person of royalty lineage, offered to share his
kingdom. "Great King", the Bodhisatta replied, "I do not seek for
the gratification of my senses or my passions, but have retired
from the world for the sake of the supreme and absolute

"Truly”, said the King, when his repeated offers had all been
refused, "you are sure to attain your goal, and when that happens
honour us with your return and teach us the way”.

The Buddha's Visit to Rajagaha

Accordingly, after His Enlightenment, together with one thousand
bhikkhus, the Buddha went to Rajagaha. When they arrived, the
King and one hundred and twenty thousand people welcomed
them heartily in great pomp and ceremony. The Buddha then
gave a Discourse; King Bimbisara and one hundred and ten
thousand people became Stream-winners; another ten thousand
people became established in the three Refuges.

The Great Donation of Veluvana Monastery

The King then invited the Buddha and the bhikkhus to the next
morning’s meal at his palace, where there was gathered a huge
crowd awaiting to pay homage. After the alms food the King
donated the great Veluvana Garden as a monastic dwelling to the
Buddha and the community of bhikkhus. Thereafter, King
Bimbisara became a regular supporter of the Buddha and served
him whenever the Buddha visited Rajagaha.

King Bimbisara had only one son, Ajatasattu. Urged on by

Devadatta, the Buddha's cousin, who planned to use Ajatasattu's
support in his bid to take over the Buddha's position as head of
the Sangha, Ajatasattu arranged for his father's death so that he
could secure his own position on the throne. As a result of this
evil deed, he was destined not only to be killed by his own son,
Udayibhadda, but also to take immediate rebirth in the lowest
region of hell.

Ajatasattu eventually became a great devotee of the Buddha. In

one instance Ajatasattu visits the Buddha in hope that the latter
will bring some peace to his mind (for killing his father). At the
end of the visit he took refuge in the Triple Gem. However his
earlier unwholesome deeds were so heavy that this expression of
faith could have only limited consequences in the immediate
present. After Ajatasattu had left; the Buddha remarked to the
community of bhikkhus: "The king is wounded, bhikkhus. The
king is incapacitated. Had he not killed his father; that righteous
man, that righteous king; the dustless, stainless Dhamma eye
would have arisen to him as he sat in this very seat." (see
Sammanaphala Sutta of the Digha Nikaya)

After the Buddha's death, he sponsored the First Council, at which

an assembly of arahants produced the sole pristine account of the
Buddha's teachings. As a result of the merit coming from this deed
and after his stay in hell, Ajatasattu is destined to final attainment
as a Pacceka Buddha.

The Necessity for Rules

In the early years of the Buddha's career, the texts tell us, there
was no need to formulate disciplinary rules. All bhikkhus then,
without exception were men of high personal attainments who
had succeeded in subduing many or all of the defilements of their
minds. They knew His Teachings well and behaved accordingly.

The Canon noted that the Venerable Sariputta, the Buddha's chief
disciples, had asked the Buddha at an early date to formulate a
code of rules, to ensure that the holy life the Buddha had
founded would last long. The Buddha replied that the time for
such a code had not yet come, for even the most backward of the
men in the Community at that time had already had their first
glimpse of the goal (the state of an arahant). Only when mental
effluents (unwholesome mental states) appear in the Community
would there be a need for rules. As time passed, the conditions
that provided an opening for the effluents within the Community
eventually began to appear.

When asked by Sariputta, the Buddha replied:

“The Teacher does not lay down a training rule for his
disciples as long as there are no cases where the conditions
that offer a foothold for the unwholesome mental states have
arisen in the Community and as long
long as the Community has
not become large.

But when the Community has become large, then there are
cases where the conditions that offer a foothold for the
unwholesome mental states arise in the Community, and the
Teacher then lays down a training rule for
for his disciples so as
to counteract those very conditions.

When the Community possesses great material gains; great

status; a large body of learning; when the Community is
long-standing, then there are cases where the conditions that
offer a foothold for
for the effluents arise in the Community, and
the Teacher then lays down a training rule for his disciples so
as to counteract those very conditions."

During the early years of the Buddha's life there were fewer
ordained bhikkhus as all were ordained by the Buddha himself
and they attained arahantship straightaway, and others had
reached high levels of practice quickly. One could say that these
were handpicked pioneers and the Buddha knew them in
previous lives during His training in the acquisition of perfections
to be a Buddha, and were positioned to accept the Dhamma as
soon as they hear His Words. Their time was ripe as it were, and
ready and awaiting the call. Hence there was no unruly
behaviour among these bhikkhus.

But as time went by, the Words of the Buddha spread far and
wide and many were attracted by the fame of the Buddha and
the erroneously perceived view of the easy life of the Sangha
members; also at a later stage the Buddha was not personally
involved in the ordination of the bhikkhus and thus people of
different dispositions and different objectives found entry into the

Sangha. There were also bhikkhus who were not disposed to the
proper training once they ordained.

Thus, rules were necessary to create a uniform code of behaviour

in the Sangha and serve to maintain the well being, convenience,
safety and reputation of the well behaved Sangha members, so
that future bhikkhus behave in acceptable manners. With good
rules, well behaved bhikkhus will then serve to promote the
Dhamma thus ensuring that new adherents will continue to
respect and honour the Dhamma and the Sangha and in this way
maintain and enhance the integrity of the Buddha's Sasana.

When we follow the course of the Sangha from its early

beginnings; we see the Holy Sangha beginning with the initial
Sixty arahants; namely: the Five Ascetics; Kondanna, Bhaddiya,
Vappa, Mahanama and Assaji followed by Yasa and 54 of his
friends; ordained and taught by the Buddha himself. Each was a
flawless gem of Dhamma, each personally coached by the Buddha
himself to realise the Dhamma. Each was a pure minded arahant
with all defilements eradicated. Such pure gems had no need to
be told what is right or wrong. It was intrinsic in their nature to
practise the truth. No rules were necessary for such members of
the Sangha.

As time moves along, the fame and desirability of the Buddha’s

Dhamma filled a great need of the times and people saw the
merits in the Dhamma. Many were also drawn by the popularity
of the Buddha’s Dhamma and ordained into the Sangha, among
them, some for unwholesome reasons. Thus, there were
increasing unwholesome intentions and actions performed using
the Dhamma as a rationalising factor. Rules were than necessary
to protect those who were true adherents of the Dhamma, so as
to distinguish and protect them from the opportunist.

Later, more took up the Dhamma as an easy way of living. Some

who joined the Sangha did so for reasons of shirking
responsibilities and an easy way of life. Poor quality members of
the Sangha present the greatest danger in the unwholesomeness
of the times, as the ignorant, not wiser and not knowing better,

perceive their actions as being exemplary and genuine, not

realising these are unwholesome deeds. Further, viewing the
bhikkhus as examples, they will thus encourage and support the
bhikkhus in their wrong doings.

It can be seen that when the first rule was made it was the
beginning of the
the eroding of the pure Dhamma;
Dhamma; beginning
beginning of
the end as it were. Though this process will take many more
years to come
come to a complete
complete rot; this unwholesome situation
had been seen by the Buddha.

The unhealthy signs of the times ahead are depicted in the

following report from a country that has for many centuries very
strong roots in the Buddha’s Teachings. Judging from the contents
of the reports, erosion to the purity of the members of the
Sangha would have had happened a long time ago for it to come
to the stage that it is now.

EDITORIAL from The NATION, (a Thai Newspaper)

Dated Wed, June 21, 2006

A Recent Report: Th
The Buddhism..
e sorry state of Thai Buddhism
There are better ways of ensuring the relevance of our national
religion than mass ceremonies or big temples.

It has become customary for the Religious Affairs Department and

Buddhist monastic authorities to intensify the enforcement of
disciplinary standards for bhikkhus in the run-up to major
religious holidays. With the approach of Buddhist celebration,
which starts on July 11, they have decided to single out one
bhikkhu in Nakhon Sawan's Takhli district who has won a huge
following among the lottery-buying public for his supposed
supernatural powers to predict winning numbers.

This bhikkhu is being investigated for breach of Buddhist precepts.

Monastic disciplinary enforcers will try to determine whether
Phra Lek actually provided "lucky" numbers in exchange for cash
donations amounting to the more than Bt10 million he was

alleged to have amassed. It might be useful to make an example

of an errant bhikkhu like Phra Lek if bhikkhus' code of behaviour
were consistently enforced.

But Phra Lek is just a small fry among all the wayward bhikkhus
who have sullied the good name of Buddhism in the Kingdom.
The scope of what is ailing the religion is far greater than most of
Thailand's Buddhists are prepared to admit. Many observant
Buddhists have become so cynical that nothing; not even the
most outrageous and despicable act imaginable committed by
such morally challenged bhikkhus, would surprise them any more.
Precious little has been done by monastic authorities to reverse
what many see as a precipitous decline of Buddhism.

All too many bhikkhus in this country do not observe even the
most rudimentary precepts required of lay Buddhists; let alone
the 227 precepts that saffron-robed bhikkhus, who are supposed
to propagate and teach the religion, must observe.

What is particularly worrying is that many people no longer even

care and seem to believe the state of Buddhism in this country is
beyond salvage. Many who call themselves Buddhist are
apparently content with superficially observing religious rites that
they don't see as having much relevance to modern society; let
alone their personal lives.

Buddhist temples used to be centres of learning and guardians of

Thailand’s cultural heritage, but now many have turned into dens
of iniquity. Instead of continuing to serve society as a guiding
light, Buddhist institutions have become bogged down in
anachronism and increasingly less relevant to the younger
generations. Worse still, rampant misbehaviour and corruption by
bhikkhus has further eroded these institutions.

Lay followers, who share responsibility for supporting and

nurturing Buddhist institutions, have consistently failed to
demand drastic reforms that are so badly needed. Even the
credibility of the Supreme Sangha Council has been compromised
by high-profile scandals.

The commercialisation of Buddhism, including fraudulent fund-

raising and the selling of amulets, has become a national
embarrassment. The number of temples continues to proliferate,
but there are not enough well-qualified bhikkhus to go around.

Buddhist studies are badly taught in schools by teachers who

don't know any better. Boring and unimaginative teaching
methods coupled with too much emphasis on rote learning turn
young people off.

Thai Buddhists are very good at organising mass ceremonies

celebrating religious holidays, spending huge sums building ever-
larger religious statues and erecting ornately decorated temples to
house them; as if these actions were all that mattered in
perpetuating a religion supposedly practised by 95 per cent of
our population. It's time for those who consider themselves
Buddhist to stand up and be counted in the campaign to clean up
Buddhist institutions.

Thailand: Soccer-
Soccer-mad bhikkhus too tired to take alms
Reuters, June 22, 2006

Bangkok, Thailand -- Buddhist bhikkhus in Thailand are too tired

to receive early morning alms because they are staying up late to
watch the World Cup, a Thai newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The Nation quoted a

woman in the northern
city of Chiang Mai who
said her birthday
celebrations were ruined
because bhikkhus at a city
temple were not awake to
receive her morning
offering, a mandatory
religious ritual in the
predominately Buddhist country.

The woman, who declined to be identified, said she was told by

a senior bhikkhu that most of his young colleagues were still
asleep because they had stayed up to watch the games which can
go on well past midnight.

The Sangha Council, which oversees the tens of thousands of

Buddhist temples in Thailand, has not banned bhikkhus from
watching the World Cup but said it should not interfere with
religious activities. In neighbouring Cambodia, some 40,000
bhikkhus have been warned they could be disrobed if they
became too excited while watching the games. "If they make
noise or cheer as they watch, they will lose their bhikkhu-hood,"
Phnom Penh patriarch Non Nget told Reuters this month.


Unfortunately, the above are only tips of the icebergs, for hidden
behind all the gloss and glitter of ornate temples and flowing
saffron robes are insidious germs of corruptions that are rarely
being understood or recognised by the laity as unwholesome.
Thus, the laity themselves are condoning the rot; not
understanding the real essence and intent of the Dhamma, and
even if they do know, they may choose to close an eye rather
than to go against peer pressure. Not only do the laity and the
majority of the members of the Sangha NOT be “alert to these
corruptions and, being alert, work to get rid of them”, but are in
actuality working to increase the corruption and the rot that have
already found entrenchment in the Sangha! Individual bhikkhus
are owners of temples; not of one temple but of many; such
ownership goes against the Buddha’s teaching.

Sadly, these faulty practices are being aided and supported by the
ignorant laity who, not realising the true goals of renunciation,
collect funds to build the temples and extensions to existing

Better accommodations are necessary as deemed by the laity for

the chief bhikkhus of the temples (or for that matter any bhikkhu
who asked for it); a small room is insufficient for such a high

office as a chief bhikkhu. In most cases the bhikkhu agrees. Most

will believe that chief bhikkhus should have some comfort to
continue their work to dispense the Dhamma. Thus, more funds
are needed; and the laity goes all out and sources the necessary
funds for the building of larger and better accommodations; this
goes on one project after another. And the laities are truly happy
as they are made to believe that these deeds of supporting the
Sangha are meritorious. The individual Sangha member too is
happy as he has a comfortable life in the temple. Is this all? Next
on the waiting list are; refrigerators, televisions and radios, hand
phones and internet connections, even a temple car for the chief

The laity often organise overseas trips for individual member of

the Sangha, travelling in groups and sight seeing is included in the

Meals are around a nice big table where the food is stacked dishes
high and wide so that the member of the Sangha can have his
choice of good and nutritious food. Even his plate is being piled
up with food for him. And on top of all these opulences, the
bhikkhu will be offered subsistence money in the form of
allowable requisites properly intoned by the laity during the offer
so the bhikkhu does not break his precept. The bhikkhus advise
the laity how this is to be done so no one breaks the rules.

Bhikkhus are often seen shopping in

supermarkets and even at perfume
counters, sniffing away at test samples
and even to the extent of buying gifts for
their female devotees!

Thus, the central intention and true

training for members of the Sangha is
passed over for worldly desires and sense
gratifications. And what are the central
intention and training for renunciates?
The singular word, Renunciation,
Renunciation sums it all. Renouncing of
household luxuries and comfort, renouncing of mundane ties and

attachments; by such renunciation and training in observing the

mind, purity of mind and body prevails, leading to
supramundane wisdom, knowledge and clarity of life’s
impermanence, suffering and the lack of an ego or self.

The Venerable Suvanno used to admonish: All sensations that

arise at the six sense doors are fleeting and ever arising and
passing away; they are booby traps. They lead one astray because
the sensual pleasures one gets from impressions and sensations
from the six doors are not permanent and eventually they bring
suffering. Consequently, respect for the Sangha will diminish, as
was the case in the time of the Third Council when unruly laity
found entry to the Sangha due to the generosity of the king at
that time. Here we have the same situation due to the generosity
of the vast majority of ignorant laity in supporting unruly
members of the Sangha with the view that such support garners
for them great merits. Thus the laity’s support is not due to
genuine intentions but on selfish greed to acquire merits for a
better rebirth, not realising that wrong views do not gather merits.
On the contrary, their wrong views will be to their unfortunate

An Ordination -
Renouncing comforts of household life

Such are the unwholesome signs of the deterioration of the pure

Dhamma, happening right here and now; the implication being
that we are at the tail end of the present sasana. We have been

warned of such unwholesomeness by the Buddha even during His

lifetime. These corruptions will be accelerated with the coming
years not decelerated, thus, the more urgent will be for those
who truly understand the essence of the Dhamma to make haste
to practise the Buddha’s teachings… “meditate, lest you regret”.

The Word,
Word, taught by
countless Buddhas aeons
ago without any definable
beginnings, and after a great
lengthy period in oblivion,
was again rekindled on the
Buddha’s Enlightenment 2600
years ago and thus, a New
Sasana began.

The rediscovered Dhamma

took on life and through the
2600 years it thrived; initially
in very fertile soil; but alas like
an over-ripe fruit...its strong
and powerful fragrance
attracted unwholesome insects and bugs.

Because of the powerful intrinsic essence instilled into it by the

Blessed One, the Word is still alive but sadly, its health is plagued
by rot and cancerous tumours, results of the defiled minds of
human beings and their inability to realise the intrinsic truth in the
Words that the Blessed One took so much pain to set forth. This
failure to see the truth of His Words had been seen by Him
shortly after His Enlightenment. Thus, it was that He was
reluctant to teach the rediscovered Dhamma initially, but was
persuaded to do so by the Brahma Sahampati.

Shortly after His Parinibbana, and even in the midst of His

lifetime, His teachings evolved as traders from other countries
and foreign societies, having affinity for His teachings and because
of the universality of His Words, absorbed it into their own ways
of life and bond with its essence.

In the process, its geographical expansion became considerable so

as to influence, at one time or another, most of the surrounding
countries and even further to all of Asia, and internationally. The
history of its development has been coloured and cosmetised by

the development of numerous movements and schisms within

itself, so much so that it needs discerning wisdom and mindful
contemplation for the pristine essence of His Words to be
fathomed and realised.

There is a singular difference in the Buddha’s teachings that bring

it above and differentiate it from other teachings.

In all other forms of teachings, beliefs, doctrines and religions, the

necessary ingredient for the absorption of those teachings, etc., is
the element of faith. The Buddha’s teachings is not about believe
with faith; it is not “believe and you will gain this and that”; it is
totally founded on experiencing the truth of the teachings; it is
realising the essence of the teachings through practise. It is
imperative that one practises the Teaching to truly realise the
truth within. Without practise there is no realisation of the truth
of His Words.
Words Mere intellectual understanding and faith in His
Words is of no consequence. In His own Words,
Words the Blessed One
has said that there is only one way to the realisation of the truth
and that is through the mindful observation of the four pillars of
emancipation; mindfulness of feelings, of the body, of the mind
and of the essence of existence. This mindfulness can only be
cultivated by a process of meditative practice known as Vipassana

This is the sole difference that transcends the Blessed One’s Words
over and beyond the beliefs and doctrines of other religious
cultures. To be able to understand and practise the Blessed One’s
teachings is to realise the pinnacle of universal truth...the only
way to purity of mind and eradication of defilement leading to
total eradication of suffering - Nibbana.

A Gradual Training
One’s training in the teachings or Dhamma begins with one’s
basic introduction to the Buddha’s Words in various ways, then
one goes onto an investigation of the Words;
Words finally finding basic
truth, one is guided to a graduated practice that develops insight
knowledge and wisdom; with such development, faith is further
developed and enhanced. Such practice enhanced by

investigation develops faith. With further advanced practice faith

is supported with acquired wisdom; energizing the effort to
strengthen the practice with greater mindfulness and
concentration thus, acquiring deeper wisdom and knowledge.

With continuing practise the faculty of faith is further developed

by wise contemplation of the arising mental awareness until such
time, the faculty of faith is balanced with the faculty of wisdom;
both being enhanced and energized by wise efforts and mindful
concentration; till the faculties of faith, wisdom, effort,
concentration are being mindfully balanced in equal quantum;
when these factors are balanced, they become powerful forces
that enhances development of mental purity, leading to a
developed mind able to eradicate defilement.

Thus to realise the truth of the Words,

Words one starts with knowledge
and with practice, faith develops. In no way in the teaching is
found a total belief based on plain faith. Faith alone without
wisdom does not bring purity of mind; blind faith develops
egoism and arrogance of the self.

Practising the Buddha’s Word is self enabling; as one progresses in

the practice one realises the essential truth of the Word. It is a
complete life style redefining, leading to a pure undefiled mind.

Thus, the singular difference in the Buddha’s Teaching from other

discipline is the acquiring of a totally undefiled mind through a
graduated practice of internal contemplation of arising mental
and physical phenomena, confirming and realising the
characteristics of the impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and non-
coreness of existence.

For it is the delusion that one is permanent, having the means to

prolong existence; that one is the architect of oneself; that one
becomes a happy creature. All these bring false security and
happiness till one is struck forcibly with the damaging truth that
those are false concepts.

Today we find many different forms of the Buddha’s Words, not

all of which are authentic and mostly do not truly portray what
the Buddha taught or intended.

Right after His Parinibbana, His arahant disciples gathered

together and committed His Teachings to memory. This first
compilation session is known as The First Great Council. In all
there had been 6 Great Councils, recognised as authentic by the
Theravada Elders and each Council was convened to counter
different challenges to the authenticity of the Words of the
Buddha. Since the Second Great Council, schisms developed and
there are quite a few other Councils not acknowledged as such by
the Theravada Elders.

Furthermore, as the Buddha’s Teachings became much favoured

in India, most Kings from nearby countries favoured Buddhist
monks likewise, and as a result, great numbers of unscrupulous
"priests" and "monks" from other religions conveniently crossed
over to Buddhism. Most of them did not change their beliefs and
practices. This polluted the teachings and many different schools
developed. The Thera Elders kept aloof from these schools and
maintained the purity of the Buddha’s Words through regular
memorised chantings.

Those who truly seek the truth must personally investigate within
the literature of the Thera Elders and not depend on others,
written or spoken, or this book for that matter, for the truth. This
has been the Buddha’s own advice to certain people in His time
who were uncertain as to which of the many teachings
abounding in India at that time were genuine and lead to
freedom and Nibbana. Bhante Suvanno constantly reminded his
devotees of the Kalama Sutta.

Kalama Sutta in brief

Do not believe just because one have heard or seen it repeatedly.
Do not follow tradition without question.
Do not place importance in rumours.
Do not believe just because it agrees with traditional scriptures.
Do not make assumptions based on hearsay
Do not draw conclusions merely by what one hears or sees.
Do not be deceived by physical appearances.
Do not hold to views or ideas just because one is comfortable
with it.
Do not accept anything based purely on logical facts alone.
Do not be convinced because of a spiritual teacher.

To realise the Truth one should go beyond opinions and beliefs.

One can rightly reject anything which, when accepted, practised
and perfected lead to increased cravings, aversion and delusion.
These things are not beneficial and are to be avoided.

On the other hand, one can rightly accept anything which, when
accepted and practised lead to declining of cravings, aversion and
delusion. These things are beneficial and are to be further
explored and acted on.

This should be one’s criteria when investigating what is and what

is not the truth and what should be and what should not be the
spiritual practice (see glossary).

Originality and Authenticity

The originality and authenticity of the Buddha’s Teachings are
confirmed and empowered by each successive Council. These
Councils as a body serve as the sole ratifying authority of the
Buddha’s Words for then and into the future and as long as the
Sasana shall remain. Without these Councils there will not be the
Teachings as we have at the present time.

The authenticity and core of the teachings lie in the Nikayas:

The Digha,
Digha, Majjhima,
Majjhima, Anguttara and Samyutta Nikayas;
Nikayas and to
some extend, the Khudaka Nikaya.

Most schools have their beginnings in these four Nikayas. The

word nikaya means a collection. In this case a collection of
discourses spoken by the Buddha.

The necessity to convene the First Council was due to Subhadda's

challenge of the monastic discipline, and his advocacy of moral
laxity, which the then Chief Disciple, Maha Kassapa took as a
warning. If that attitude were to spread, it would lead to the
decline and ruin of both the Sangha and the Teaching. To prevent
this, Maha Kassapa proposed to the bhikkhus to convene a
council where the Dhamma and Vinaya could be reliably
established and secured.

The bhikkhus agreed and at their request Maha Kassapa selected

five hundred members, all but one of whom were arahants.
Ananda, it was that who had not yet succeeded in reaching that
final attainment, but as he excelled in remembering all of the
Buddha's discourses, he too was admitted to complement the five
hundred members of this council. The bhikkhus selected Rajagaha
as the most suitable place to hold the council. All other bhikkhus
were to leave Rajagaha for the duration of the council.

There were in all a total of Six Great Councils and at each Council,
the teachings of the Buddha were repeated and confirmed as
according to the rules set up in the First Council. No addition, no
retraction and no change in format were allowed. Up to the
Fourth Great Council all the proceedings were verbal and
committed to memory, till at this Fourth Council held in Ceylon
the teachings were first written down on palm leaves. Thus was
the original teachings of the Buddha kept strictly to its pristine
purity by the Theras of the Theravada bhikkhus to the present
time, a span of more than 2600 years. These sets of authentic
Words are now known as The Tipitaka (refer study notes).

Venerable Dr. Rewata Dhamma

The First Council was sponsored

by King Ajatasattu. A detailed
account of this historic meeting
can be found in the Cullavagga of
the Vinaya Pitaka. According to
this record the incident which
prompted the Elder Maha Kassapa
to call this meeting was his
concern for the behaviour of
monks in the course of the future
years, especially after the remark
made by the bhikkhu Subhadda,
who was disgruntled about the
disciplined monastic way of life
with its restrictive rules formulated
by the Blessed One.

The bhikkhu Subhadda, a former barber who had ordained late in

life, upon hearing that the Buddha had died, voiced his
resentment at having to abide by all the rules for bhikkhus laid
down by the Buddha. Maha Kassapa was alarmed by his remark
and feared that the Dhamma-Vinaya would be corrupted and not
survive intact if other bhikkhus were to behave like Subhadda and
regard the Vinaya rules at their whims and fancies. To circumvent
this possibility, he decided he should convene a congregation of
well behaved bhikkhus to find a way to ensure that the Dhamma-
Vinaya be preserved and protected for all time. To this end and
after gaining the Sangha's approval he called to council four
hundred and ninety-nine Arahants and Ananda.

With the Elder Maha Kassapa presiding, the five-hundred arahant

bhikkhus met in council during the rainy season. The first matter
of importance to be attended to was the confirmation of the set
of rules for the bhikkhus set up by the Buddha; and for this, Maha
Kassapa seeked the advice of the foremost Vinaya expert of the
day, the Venerable Upali. Maha Kassapa requested particulars of

the monastic rules, from the Venerable Upali; in the first instance
about the ruling on the first offence (parajika), with regard to the
subject, the occasion, the individual introduced, the
proclamation, the repetition of the proclamation, the offence and
the case of non-offence. Upali was well qualified for the task as
the Buddha had personally taught him the Vinaya.

To quote; there was the bhikkhu Sudina, who ordained without

his family's consent and was persuaded into having sexual
intercourse with his ex-wife so as to continue a family lineage to
maintain the family's great wealth. Thus was the first Parajika rule
promulgated to discourage such unwholesome actions in future.
All the arahants present confirmed that such was the truth of that
rule. The Vinaya rules were repeated by the Venerable Upali and
in like manner, the 499 arahants repeated and confirmed the
orginality and circumstances of the formulation of all the other
Vinaya rules.

Upali gave knowledgeable and adequate answers and his

recitations met with the unanimous approval of the Sangha
members present. The complete Vinaya rules were recited,
ascertained and unanimously approved by this First Council of

The Elder Maha Kassapa then turned his attention to confirming

the details of the Suttas or Discourses the Buddha expounded
during His forty-five years. For this he turned to Ananda, who by
virtue of his being the Buddha’s cousin and the constant attendant
in all matters connected with the Dhamma was the acknowledged
expert. He was also possessed of a great retentive memory with
which he had remembered all the discourses expounded by the
Buddha. Happily, the night before the Council was to meet,
Ananda attained arahantship. The Elder Maha Kassapa, therefore,
was able to question him in depth with complete confidence
about the Dhamma with specific reference to the Buddha's

Ananda achieving Arahanthood

Just before His Parinibbana, the Buddha had exhorted the
Venerable Ananda to practise diligently as he was still then not
among the ranks of the arahants. Maha Kassapa knew that
Ananda had not yet attain to the stage of an arahant;
nevertheless, realising Ananda’s unique knowledge, he reserved
the 500th seat for Ananda.

Ananda, under extreme pressure as the only non-arahant in the

Council, was practising earnestly right up to the day before the
Great Council. Nearing the end of day and feeling very tired and
anxious, he mused: “The Blessed One had already said that it is
possible that I will be able to achieve arahanthood, how is it that
it still eludes me?” He contemplated and realised that his energy
expended in the practice was out of balance with the rest of the
faculties of faith, wisdom, mindfulness and concentration. He was
trying too hard. Having contemplated so, he decided to take a
short rest. He approached his bed and lifting himself off the
ground, was on the point of lying on it; in this not on the ground
and not off the ground position, he attained fruition and
achieved arahanthood!

After resting and with the intention of going to the Council

meeting and announcing his attainment, he decided rather to
demonstrate his status as an arahant in a very convincing manner
so that others would have no doubts as to his suitability at the
Council. He rose in the air and approaching the council hall,
floated onto the seat set aside for him! Maha Kassapa was the first
to signal his joy by exclaiming three times in exultation; “Sadhu,
Sadhu, Sadhu!”. Thus was five hundred arahants gathered to
ratify and authenticate the Buddha's teachings.

In the first twenty years after his Enlightenment the Buddha had
no permanent attendant, but he eventually decided to appoint
one person to the post. During the discussion to select a
permanent attendant some bhikkhus were named but was not
accepted for one reason or another; Ananda had kept silent.

Approached by the other bhikkhus to volunteer his services, he

consented provided the Buddha agreed to eight conditions; that
the Buddha:

1. should not give him robes the Buddha had received;

2. should not give him food which the Buddha had received;
3. should not allow him to dwell in the same Fragrant Chamber;
4. should not always take him along wherever the Buddha was
5. should kindly comply whenever Ananda had accepted an
invitation on the Buddha’s behalf;
6. should kindly give him permission to introduce visitors that
came from afar to see the Buddha;
7. should kindly grant him permission to approach the Buddha
whenever any doubts arise;
8. should kindly repeat to him the discourses that were declared
in Ananda’s absence.

These conditions were graciously accepted by the Buddha.

Ananda was a very devoted attendant and he eventually lived up
to 120 years and had many of his own disciples. Because of his
kind, compassionate nature, and being pleasant of appearance,
Ananda was well loved and respected.

This indepth investigation into the Dhamma sought to ascertain

the Discourses, their nature, why and when and to whom they
had been addressed. Ananda, aided by his perfect retentive
memory was able to answer factually. The recitation of the
Discourses were meticulously and stringently detailed. Bear in
mind that all the members of this Council were arahants, perfect
ones; all had no personal agenda to meet except to ensure that
every detail of the Discourses was original and the truth. Every
single member knew the purpose of the work he was performing;
to ensure that each and every Discourse was genuinely uttered by
the Blessed One so as to leave a perfect heritage to future
generations. The recitation met with the unanimous approval of
the Sangha, were confirmed, ratified and held as the original true
Words of the Blessed One.

During the course of the Council meeting other matters were

brought up for discussion and clarification. In particular the point
about what constitutes minor or major rules were discussed, as
during the time of the Buddha many different categories of rules
of different importance were promulgated. Some had great
importance to the Sangha and some were of a minor nature.

The First Council also took the important step to confirm that all
rules of the Vinaya were to be adhered to regardless of the
degree of importance seen. It officially approved the observance
of all rules whether considered as minor or lesser rules.

It took the bhikkhus seven months to recite the whole of the

Vinaya and the Dhamma. This historic First Council came to be
known as the Pancasatika because five-hundred fully enlightened
arahants had taken part in it. The reader will note that nothing
has been mentioned about the third basket; the Abhidhamma (see
section on Abhidhamma).

The Council of Rajagaha
(Ref: Eleventh Khandhaka of the Cullavagga)
Time: Three months after the demise of the Buddha: 544BC.
Place: The Sattapanni Cave Pavilion at Mount Vebhara near the
city of Rajagaha.
Duration: Seven months.

Presented here are the actual events

leading to the establishing of the First
Council in the Theravada tradition of
the Blessed One’s Dhamma-Vinaya.

Now the Venerable Maha Kassapa

addressed the Bhikkhus, and said:
“Once I was travelling along the road
from Pava to Kusinara with a
company of five hundred bhikkhus.
And I left the high road and sat myself
down at the foot of a certain tree”.

“Just at that time a certain naked ascetic, who had picked up a

Mandarava flower (this was a flower which grew only in the
heaven realms, and its appearance on earth showed that the
devas, on some special occasion, had been casting down heavenly
flowers upon the earth) in Kusinara, was coming along the road
towards Pava. And I saw him coming in the distance, and on
seeing I said to him: ‘O, friend! Surely you know our Master?’”
“Yes, friend, I know him. This day the Samana Gotama has been
dead a week. That is how I obtained this Mandarava flower.”

“Then, Venerable Sirs, of those of the bhikkhus who were not yet
free from their passions, some stretched out their arms and wept;
and some fell headlong on the ground; and some reeled to and
fro in anguish at the thought: ‘Too soon has the Blessed One
died! Too soon has the Happy One passed away! Too soon has
the Light gone out in the world!’”

“But those of the bhikkhus who were free from the passions, the
arahants, bore their grief, collected and composed at the thought:
‘Impermanent are all component things. How is it possible that
they should not be dissolved?’

“Then I, Venerable Sirs, spoke thus to the bhikkhus: ‘Enough,

Venerables! Weep not, neither lament! Has not the Blessed One
already declared to us that it is the very nature of all things near
and dear unto us that we must divide ourselves from them, leave
them, sever ourselves from them? How then, Venerable Sirs, can
this be possible; that whereas anything whatever born, brought
into being and organised, contains within itself the inherent
necessity of dissolution; how then can this be possible that such a
being should not be dissolved? No such condition can exist!’

Then at that time, Venerable Sirs, one Subhadda, who had gone
forth from the world in his old age, was seated there in the
company of bhikkhus. And Subhadda, the late-received one, said
to the bhikkhus: ‘Enough, Venerable Sirs! Weep not, neither
lament! We are well rid of the great Samana. We used to be
annoyed by being told, 'This beseems you, this beseems you not;'
but now we shall be able to do whatever we like; and what we
do not like, that we shall not have to do.’”

The Venerable Maha Kassapa noted this and kept silent…and

they went on to attend to the Master’s passing away.

When all rites due to the body of the Master were completed and
the relics had been distributed, Maha Kassapa, recalled to
memory the evil words of the aged Subhadda. He further recalled
that the Master had commanded that the Holy Truth be
established after His death; thus desiring that the doctrine of the
Master might long endure, and also reflecting that the Master had
exchanged His garment with himself, and had thereby signify
their equality, Maha Kassapa decided to make a verification of
the Holy Dhamma.

“Come, Venerable Sirs”, Maha Kassapa said: “let us together

chant the Dhamma and the Vinaya before what is not Dhamma is
spread abroad, and what is Dhamma is put aside; before what is
not Vinaya is spread abroad, and what is Vinaya is put aside;
before those who argue against the Dhamma become powerful,
and those who hold to the Dhamma become weak; before those
who argue against the Vinaya become powerful, and those who
hold to the Vinaya become weak!”

The congregation of bhikkhus gave uanimous consent and

answered: “Let then the Venerable Thera choose the bhikkhus.”

Then the Venerable Maha Kassapa selected five hundred arahants

less one. And the bhikkhus said to the Venerable Maha Kassapa:
'Lord, this Venerable one, Ananda, although he has not yet
attained to arahant, yet is he incapable of falling into error
through partiality, or malice, or stupidity, or fear, and thoroughly
have the Dhamma and the Vinaya been taught to him by the
Blessed One himself. Therefore let our Lord choose the Venerable
Ananda’. And the Venerable Maha Kassapa chose also the
Venerable Ananda.

And the Sangha queried as to where to hold the Dhamma

recitation; Rajagaha was decided as it was easy to gather food
and King Ajatasattu, a strong supporter of the Buddha being able
to offer protection.

King Ajatasattu was informed of the intention of the Sangha and

he made all necessary arrangements for the bhikkhus to meet in

Then the Venerable Maha Kassapa laid the resolution before the
Sangha: “Let the Venerable Sangha hear me. If the time seems
opportune to the Sangha, let the Sangha appoint that these five
hundred bhikkhus take up their residence during the rainy season
at Rajagaha, to chant over together the Dhamma and the Vinaya,
and that no other bhikkhus go up to Rajagaha for the rainy
season. This is the resolution. Let the Venerable Sangha hear. The
Sangha appoints accordingly. Whosoever of the Venerable Ones

approves thereof, let him keep silence. Whosoever approves not

thereof, let him speak. (The Sangha remains silent). The Sangha
has appointed accordingly. Therefore is it silent. Thus do I

So the Thera Bhikkhus went up to Rajagaha to chant over

together the Dhamma and the Vinaya. And the Thera Bhikkhus
thought: 'The Blessed One has spoken in praise of the repair of
dilapidations. Let us, then, during the first month of the rainy
season repair such dilapidations (of the dwellings), and during the
middle month let us chant over the Dhamma and the Vinaya
together.' And during the first month they repaired dilapidation.

When the repair of the vihara was finished they said to the King:
“Now we will hold the council”. To the question of the King,
“What should be done”? they answered: “A place should be
provided for the meetings”. When the King had asked: “Where
these viharas were to be”? and the place had been pointed out by
the Thera Bhikkhus, the King, with all speed had a splendid hall
built by the side of the Vebhara Rock by the entrance of the
Sattapanni Grotto, and it was like to the assembly-hall of the
gods. When it was adorned in every way he caused precious mats
to be spread according to the number of the Thera Bhikkhus.
Placed on the south side and facing the north a lofty and noble
seat was prepared for the Thera, and in the middle of the hall a
high seat was prepared for the preacher, facing the east and
worthy of the Blessed One Himself.

Then the Venerable Ananda; anxious and thinking, 'Tomorrow is

the assembly, now it is not right for me to go into the assembly
while I am still only on the way (towards arahantship)'; he thus
spent the whole night with mind alert. And at the close of the
night, intending to lie down, he inclined his body, but before his
head reached the pillow, and while his feet were still far from the
ground, in the interval he became free from attachment to the
world, and his heart was emancipated from the defilement (that
is to say, from sensuality, individuality, delusion, and ignorance
and thus became one of the Holy Ones, an Arahant).

Questioning of the Vinaya

On the second day of the second month of the rainy season the
Thera Bhikkhus met together in that splendid Hall; the arahants
seated themselves according to their rank in age of ordination.

Together the Thera Bhikkhus chose the Thera Upali to speak for
the Vinaya, for the rest of the Dhamma they chose Ananda. The
Great Thera, Maha Kassapa, laid on himself the task of asking
questions touching the Vinaya and the Thera Upali was ready to
explain it.

Sitting in the Thera's chair, Maha Kassapa asked the Venerable

Upali, the questions touching the Vinaya; and Upali (he who was
taught the Vinaya by the Blessed One Himself), seated in the
preacher's chair, expounded the doctrine. And as this great master
of the Vinaya expounded each clause in turn all the Thera
Bhikkhus, knowing too the custom, chanted the Vinaya after him.

And concerning the detailed procedure of chanting, the

Venerable Maha Kassapa laid the resolution before the Sangha: 'If
the time seems appropriate to the Sangha, I will question Upali
concerning the Vinaya.' And the Venerable Upali laid a resolution
before the Sangha: 'Let the Venerable Sangha hear me. If the time
seems appropriate to the Sangha, I, when questioned by the
Venerable Maha Kassapa, will give reply.'

Then the Venerable Maha Kassapa said to the Venerable Upali:

'Venerable Upali, where was the first Parajika promulgated?'
'In Vesali, Sir.'
'Concerning whom was it spoken?'
'Concerning Sudinna, the son of Kalanda.'
'In regard to what matter?'
'Sexual intercourse.'

Thus did the Venerable Maha Kassapa question the Venerable

Upali as to the matter, as to the occasion, as to the individual
concerned, as to the (principal) rule, as to the sub-rule, as to who
would be guilty, and as to who would be innocent, of the first

'Again, Venerable Upali, where was the second Parajika

'At Rajagaha, Sir.'
'Concerning whom was it spoken?'
'Dhaniya, the potter's son.'
'In regard to what matter?'
'The taking of that which had not been given.'
Thus did the Venerable Maha Kassapa question the Venerable
Upali as to the matter, and as to the occasion, and as to the
individual concerned, and as to the (principal) rule, and as to the
sub-rule, and as to who would be guilty, and as to who would be
innocent of the second Parajika.

'Again, Venerable Upali, where was the third Parajika

'At Vesali, Sir.'
'Concerning whom was it spoken?'
'A number of bhikkhus.'
'In regard to what matter?'
'Human beings.'

Thus did the Venerable Maha Kassapa question the Venerable

Upali as to [all the particulars, as before] of the third Parajika.

'Again, Venerable Upali, where was the fourth Parajika

'At Vesali, Sir.'
'Concerning whom was it spoken?'
'The bhikkhus dwelling on the banks of the Vaggumuda river.'
'In regard to what matter?'
'Superhuman conditions.'

Thus did the Venerable Maha Kassapa question the Venerable

Upali as to [all the particulars, as before] of the fourth Parajika.
And in like manner did he question him through both the
Vinayas; and as he was successively asked, so did Upali make

Questioning of the Dhamma

Then Maha Kassapa questioned concerning the Dhamma, him the
chief of those who had most often heard (the Word), him the
personal keeper of the Great Seer (the Buddha); Ananda; and
Ananda taking the task upon himself, expounded the whole
Dhamma as he was asked. And all the Thera Bhikkhus knowing
too all that was contained in the doctrine repeated the Dhamma
in turn after the Venerable Ananda.

Thus, then the Venerable Maha Kassapa laid a resolution before

the Sangha: 'Let the Venerable Sangha hear me. If the time seems
appropriate to the Sangha, I would question Ananda concerning
the Dhamma.'

And the Venerable Ananda laid a resolution before the Sangha:

'Let the Venerable Sangha hear me. If the time seems appropriate
to the Sangha, I, as questioned by the Venerable Maha Kassapa,
will give reply.'

And the Venerable Maha Kassapa said to the Venerable Ananda:

'Where, Venerable Ananda, was the Brahmajala spoken?'

'On the way, Venerable Sir, between Rajagaha and Nalanda, at

the royal rest-house at Ambalatthika.'
'Concerning whom was it spoken?'
'Suppiya, the wandering ascetic, and Brahmadatta, the young

Thus did the Venerable Maha Kassapa question the Venerable

Ananda as to the occasion of the Brahmajala, and as to the
individuals concerning whom it was spoken.

'And again, Venerable Ananda, where was the Samanna-phala

'At Rajagaha, Venerable Sir; in Jivaka's Mango Grove.'
'And with whom was it spoken?'
'With Ajatasattu, the son of the Vedehi.'

Thus did the Venerable Maha Kassapa question the Venerable

Ananda as to the occasion of the Samanna-phala, and as to the
individual concerned. And in like manner did he question him
through the Discourses, and as he was successively asked, so did
Ananda make reply.

Then the Venerable Ananda spoke thus to the Thera Bhikkhus:

'The Blessed One, Venerables, at the time of his passing away,
spoke thus to me: ‘When I am gone, Ananda, let the Sangha, if it
should so wish, revoke all the lesser and minor precepts.’
'Did you then, Venerable Ananda, ask the Blessed One which
were the lesser and minor precepts?'
'No, Venerables.'
Some Thera Bhikkhus then said that all the rules save the four
Parajikas; others that all save those and the thirteen
Sanghadisesas; others that all save those and the two Aniyatas;
others that all save those and the thirty Nissaggiyas; others that all
save those and the ninety-two Pacittiyas; others that all save
those and the four Patidesaniyas were lesser and minor precepts
(see glossary).

Then the Venerable Maha Kassapa laid a resolution before the

Sangha: 'Let the Venerable Sangha hear me. There are certain of
our precepts which relate to matters in which the laity are
concerned. Now the laity knows of us that; ‘such and such things
are proper for you Samanas who are Sakyaputtiyas, and such and
such things are not’. If we were to revoke the lesser and minor
precepts, it will be said of us: ‘A set of precepts was laid down for
His disciples by the Samana Gotama to endure until the smoke
should rise from His funeral pyre. So long as their teacher
remained with these men, so long did they train themselves in the
precepts. Since their teacher has passed away from them, no
longer do they now train themselves in the precepts’.

If the time seems appropriate to the Sangha, not ordaining what

has not been ordained, and not revoking what has been
ordained, let it take upon itself and ever direct itself in the
precepts according as they have been laid down. This is the

'Let the Venerable Sangha hear me. These things being so, the
Sangha takes upon itself the precepts according as they have been
laid down. Whosoever of the Venerable ones approves thereof,
let him keep silence. Whosoever approves not thereof, let him
speak. (The Sangha remains silent.) The Sangha has taken upon
itself the precepts according as they were laid down. Therefore
does it keep silence. Thus do I understand.'

Now the Thera Bhikkhus said to the Venerable Ananda: 'That was
ill done by you, friend Ananda, in that you did not ask the
Blessed One which were the lesser and minor precepts. Confess
your fault.'

'Through forgetfulness was it, Venerable Sirs, that I did not ask
that of the Blessed One. I see no fault therein. Nevertheless, out
of my faith in you, I confess that as a fault.'

'This also, friend Ananda, was ill done by you, in that you
stepped upon the Blessed One's rainy-season garment to sew it.
Confess your fault.'

'It was not, Venerable Sirs, through any want of respect to the
Blessed One that I did so. I see no fault therein. Nevertheless, out
of my faith in you, I confess that as a fault.'

'This also, friend Ananda, was ill done by you, in that you caused
the body of the Blessed One to be saluted by women first, so that
by their weeping the body of the Blessed One was defiled by
tears. Confess that fault.'

'I did so, Venerable Sirs, with the intention that they should not
be kept beyond due time. I see no fault therein. Nevertheless, out
of my faith in you, I confess that as a fault.'

'This too, friend Ananda, was ill done by you, in that even when
a suggestion so evident and a hint so clear were given you by the
Blessed One, you did not plead with him, saying, "Let the Blessed
One remain on for a kalpa! Let the Happy One remain on for a
kalpa for the good and happiness of the great multitudes, out of

pity for the world, for the good and the gain and the weal of
gods and men!" Confess that fault.'

'I was possessed by the Evil One, friends, when I refrained from
so pleading with him. I see no fault therein. Nevertheless, out of
my faith in you, I confess that as a fault.' (see glossary)

'This also, friend Ananda, was ill done by you, in that you exerted
yourself to procure admission for women into the Dhamma and
Vinaya proclaimed by the Tathagata. Confess that fault.'

'That did I do, friends, thinking of Maha Pajapati the Gotami, the
sister of the Blessed One's mother; his nurse and comforter, who
gave him milk; how she, when she who had borne him was dead,
herself suckled him as with mother's milk. I see no fault therein.
Nevertheless, out of my faith in you, I confess that as a fault.' (see

Thus in seven months was that compiling of the Dhamma

completed by those Thera Bhikkhus. `The Thera Maha Kassapa
has made the Blessed One's message to endure five hundred
years,' rejoicing in this thought, at the end of the council, the
earth encircled by the ocean trembled six times and many
wondrous signs were shown in the world in many ways.

Now since the canon was compiled by the Thera Bhikkhus, it was
called the Thera tradition.' The Theras who had held the First
Council and had thereby brought great blessing to the world,
having lived their allotted span of life, all attained nibbana.

The aim of Maha Kassapa in calling for the affirmation of the

Blessed One’s Words was to ensure that the True Teachings will
not be tainted and subverted by unscrupulous people, even those
in the holy robes. This goal was also the main theme as
understood by the Theras who made up the members of this
august assembly. They were all arahants without exception, the
latest addition to their number was Ananda, who just made the
grade at the eleventh hour. As arahants, they were pure in mind
and were without defilement of any kind; they were special

human beings, having attained to the highest, the supreme level

of spiritual purity. Their very thoughts, words and or deeds were
of the purest motive and without taints of greed, anger and

These arahants had disciples and pupils; the affirmed Dhamma

was passed on to each and everyone of the arahants, who took it
as their responsibility to teach their pupils and disciples the
elements of the Dhamma as laid out at this Council. They made it
an exercise of study to chant these knowledge on a regular basis.
Thus each arahant was given specific passages to pass on to their
disciples to memorise and chant and to keep the Dhamma within
their group. Thus was the Words of the Blessed One kept alive
and well for the future years.


Time: 100 Buddhist Era (443 B.C).
Duration: Eight months.
Place: Valukarama Monastery, near the City of Vesali.

After the First Great Council and for the rest

of the next 100 years till the year 443 BC
nothing untoward happened to be of great
concern to the Teachings as enshrined at this
Council. However, events that contribute to
the dilution of the pristine purity of the
original Dhamma was also appearing (see
glossary). In fact, the harbingers of
unwholesome changes were already being
spawned by travellers from many countries,
notably China, who with good intentions brought the Dhamma
to their home countries. However, these well intentioned
travellers had not grasped the essence of the Dhamma and while
skimming the surface of the Dhamma, was more inclined to
equate the Dhamma with their own traditions, thus in the process
causing the true Dhamma to be incorrectly dispensed.

This dilution of the Dhamma had already begun during the

Buddha’s time, due to the many travellers plying the trade routes
radiating from India.

Vada in Pali means teachings, law or doctrine; thus was then the
bhikkhus known as: Theravada bhikkhus. On them rested the
responsibility of preserving the Words of the Buddha. The
bhikkhus were assigned different texts for their recitation and they
taught these texts, verbatim to their own disciples who further
passed it on to their own disciples and so on. During this period,
many took refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha,
till some bhikkhus of the Vajji clan from Vesali preached and
practised ten unlawful deviations in the rules of the Order,
specifically not approved by the Buddha. These illegal practices

1. Using salt in a horn (to salt their food).

2. Eating after mid-day.
3. Eating once and then going again to a village for alms.
4. Holding separate uposatha within the same sima (a
sacred area).
5. Passing a formal act awaiting the sanction of other
6. Mere following precedent in practices.
7. Eating sour milk after one have had his mid-day meal.
8. Drinking unfermented drink.
9. Using a rug not of the proper allowed dimension.
10. Accepting gold and silver.

Their nonconforming to the rules came to be a turning point in

rallying the true bhikkhus to purge the Dhamma of the

It happened that the bhikkhu, the Venerable Yasa visited the

town of Vesali and while staying in the monastery of the Vajjian
bhikkhus noticed to his great dismay that they were collecting
gold and silver purportedly for the upkeep of the monastery.

He immediately criticised their behaviour and their response was

to offer him a share of their illegal gains in the hope that he
would be pacified. The Elder Yasa, however declined and
chastised them. The Vajjian bhikkhus were unhappy with his
censure and in turn accused him of having annoyed and angered
their lay devotees; turning the devotees against the Venerable

The Elder Yasa however, was able to reconcile himself with the
lay devotees, and at the same time, by quoting the Buddha's
pronouncement on the prohibition against accepting or soliciting
for gold and silver convinced them that the Vajjian bhikkhus had
in fact done wrong. The laity immediately expressed their support
for the Elder Yasa and declared that the Vajjian bhikkhus were the

wrong-doers saying: "The bhikkhus here are not Sakyan sons, only
the Elder Yasa is the real bhikkhu and a Sakyan son.

Let us hear from the Scriptural Text how the 2nd Council became

1. Yasa’s discovery of Vajjian bhikkhus’

bhikkhus’ collection of money
from the laity.
laity. He objected strongly to this practice.
The Venerable Yasa, son of Kakandaka, travelling in the country
of Vajjis, came to Vesali, took up lodging in Mahavana, the Great
Woods, in the hall of Belvedere (Kutagarasala). Then, it was an
Uposatha (holy) day, the bhikkus Vajjiputtakas of Vesali, filled a
copper basin with water, placed it in the midst of circle of
bhikkhus, and exhorted the laypeople to “give to the community
a kahapana, a half, a quarter, a sixth of a kahapana! The
community has need for diverse things.”

In vain, Yasa protested and admonished the laypeople, “Do not

give! Gold and silver are not allowed to the ascetics, sons of
Sakya….” Later, the bhikkhus shared the money amongst them,
and offered a portion to Yasa who refused it.

2. Vajjian bhikkhus imposed ‘Act of reconciliation’ and ‘Act Act of

suspension’ on Yasa
Yasa had admonished lay disciples for giving ‘gold and silver’ to
the Vajjian bhikkhus. The act of reconciliation, i.e., to ask pardon
from laymen in the presence of an accompanying Vajjian bhikkhu
was to ensure that lay disciples would consider the act of giving
gold and silver as proper.

Accompanied by another Vajjian bhikkhu, Yasa went into town

and told the laymen, ‘I acknowledge that I blame you, pious
laymen of good intention, but this giving of gold and silver is
adhamma and avinaya.’ He cited discourses by Buddha, which
were decisive on the question of bhikkhus being forbidden gold
and silver.

The laypeople believing Yasa, decided to break with the bhikkhus

Vajjiputtaka: “There is none but Yasa who is an ascetic and a son

of Sakya, all the others are neither ascetics nor Sons of Sakyans.”
The Elder Yasa was not satisfied with the situation and went in
search of support of his stand from bhikkhus elsewhere.

Many bhikkhus upheld his orthodox views on the Vinaya and

together with the Elder Yasa, they decided to go to the town of
Soreyya to consult a highly revered bhikkhu, the Venerable
Revata, an expert in the Dhamma and the Vinaya.

The Venerale Revata advised that a council should be called at

Valikarama with himself asking questions on the ten offences of
the most senior of the Elders of the day, the Thera Sabbakami,
and to be heard by a committee of eight senior bhikkhus, and its
validity decided by their vote.

The eight bhikkhus called to judge the matter were the

Venerables Sabbakami, Salha, Khujjasobhita and Vasabhagamika,
from the East and four bhikkhus from the West, the Venerables
Revata, Sanasambhiita, Yasa and Sumana. They debated the
matter in depth with Revata as the questioner and Sabbakami
answering his questions. Seven hundred other bhikkhus attended
the council in support. After the debate, the eight senior bhikkhus
decided against the Vajjian bhikkhus (a note of significance is that
these eight Elders were of an advanced age and were known to
have “seen the Tathagata”, that is to say they were living during
the time of the Blessesd One and knew His teachings first hand.
Bhikkhus were known to live beyond 140 years as was the case
with Ananda, who passed away aged 120 years).

Afterwards the seven-hundred bhikkhus recited the Dhamma and

Vinaya and this recital came to be known as the Sattasatika
because seven-hundred bhikkhus had taken part in it. This historic
council is also called, the Yasatthera Sangiti because of the major
role the Elder Yasa played in it and his zeal for safeguarding the

Scriptural Texts: The Vajjian bhikkhus initially appeared to accept

the admonishment of the theras in this 2nd Council but they were

not satisfied so they convened their own council; the

Mahasanghika. Vajjian bhikkhus and even laities and monks of
other disciplines numbering 10,000 gathered at Pataliputta to give
support to overturning the decision of the Thera Bhikkhus. Thus,
there became a great schism of the Sangha 100 years after the
Mahaparinibbana of the Blessed One.

This breakaway group was to be the beginning of the Mahayana

tradition. This signify the period where the parting of the ways
occur; the Theras in one direction, religiously following and
guarding the original Words of the Buddha, and the others, who
were zealous in their efforts to propagate the Dhamma within
their own interpretation, away from its true essence.

However, the Elders who had adhered to the original Teachings

of the Buddha and had painstakingly repeated every word of the
Buddha's Teachings regularly after the two great councils, kept
strictly to the word, letter, intent and spirit of the original
Teachings. Not a single word or sentence was changed, nothing
was added to the texts and the format remained as it was during
the time of Maha Kassapa. Thus, these Thera Elders kept the
tradition intact.

Patron: King Asoka Bindusara Maurya
Time: 235 B.E (308 B.C).
Duration: Nine months.
Place: The Asokarama Monastery in the city of Pataliputta
In session: The Venerable Moggaliputta and 1000 bhikkhus.

Emperor Ashoka (B.C. 304-


The course of events leading to the

Third Council is inseparable from the
events in the life of King Asoka; the
Third Council and King Asoka go hand
in glove.

Whereas the First and Second Councils

were exercises in ratification of the
Blessed One’s words and to ensure
purity in the pristine Dhamma, the
Third Council has one other self-
preserving feature over those of the
previous Councils. It was the first time
the Dhamma was brought to the outside world other than within
the borders of India, and this propagation of the Dhamma
internationally caused the Dhamma to be kept alive elsewhere
when its home base was considerably weakened by outside

Thus, we begin the Third Council with the Mauryan Empire given
life by King Chandragupta, further expanded by his son, King
Bindusara and finally inherited by King Asoka. The impact of
Chandragupta Maurya was tremendous. Due to Chandragupta’s
strong military tradition and excellent government structure the
Mauryan Empire was able to expand to cover the entire Indian
subcontinent under the reign of his son and his grandson, the
legendary Emperor Asoka. We quote from The Outline of History
by the great historian and novelist, H.G. Wells:

Asoka had several elder siblings (all half-brothers from other

wives of Bindusara). He had just one younger sibling, Vitthasoka
(a much loved brother from the same mother). Because of his
exemplary intellect and warrior skills, Asoka was said to have
been the favorite of his grandfather. In his adolescence, he was
rude and unruly. He was a fearsome hunter and being a
kshatriya, the warrior caste (as was the Buddha), he was given all
royal military training and other Vedic knowledge. He was a
fierce warrior and a heartless general. Because of this quality he
was sent to curb the riots at Avanti.

After his father passed away, Asoka had all his brothers killed and
ascended the throne. He expanded his empire over the next eight
years, from the present-day boundaries and regions of Burma–
Bangladesh and the state of Assam in India in the east to the
territory of present-day Iran / Persia and Afghanistan in the west;
from the Pamir Knots in the north almost to the peninsular of
southern India (i.e. Tamilnadu / Andhra Pradesh).

Conquest of Kalinga
While the early part of Asoka's reign was apparently quite
bloodthirsty, he became a follower of the Buddha's teaching after
his conquest of Kalinga on the east coast of India in the present-
day state of Orissa. Kalinga was a state that prided itself on its
sovereignty and democracy. With its monarchical parliamentary
democracy it was quite an exception in ancient India.

The pretext for the start of the Kalinga War (265 BC or 263 BC)
is uncertain. One of Susima's brothers might have fled to Kalinga
and found official refuge there. This enraged Asoka immensely.
He was advised by his ministers to attack Kalinga for this act of
treachery. Asoka then asked Kalinga's royalty to submit before his
supremacy. When they defied his request, Asoka sent one of his
generals to Kalinga to make them submit.

The general and his forces were, however, completely routed

through the skilled tact of Kalinga's commander-in-chief. Asoka,
baffled at this defeat, attacked with the greatest invasion ever
recorded in Indian history until then. Kalinga put up a stiff

resistance, but they were no match for Asoka's brutal strength.

The whole of Kalinga was plundered and destroyed. Asoka's later
edicts state that about 100,000 people were killed on the Kalinga
side and 10,000 from Asoka's army. Thousands of men and
women were deported

As the legend goes, one day after the war was over, Asoka
ventured out to roam the city and all he could see were burnt
houses and scattered corpses. This sight made him sick and he
cried the famous monologue:

What have I done? If this is a victory, what's a defeat then?

Is this a victory or a defeat? Is this justice or injustice? Is it
gallantry or a rout? Is it valor to kill innocent children and
women? Do I do it to widen the empire and for prosperity
or to destroy the other's
other's kingdom and splendou
splendour? One has
lost her husband, someone else a father, someone a child,
someone an unborn infant.... What's this debris of the
corpses? Are these marks of victory or defeat? Are these
vultures, crows, eagles the messengers of death or evil?

The brutality of the conquest led him to adopt Buddhism and he

used his position to propagate the relatively new religion to new
heights, as far as ancient Rome and Egypt. He made Buddhism his
state religion around 260 BC.

He seems to have ruled his vast empire in peace and with great
ability. He organized a great digging of wells in India, and the
planting of trees for shade. He appointed officers for the
supervision of charitable works. He founded hospitals and public
gardens. He had gardens made for the growing of medicinal
herbs. Had he had an Aristotle to inspire him, he would no doubt
have endowed scientific research upon a great scale.

He created a ministry for the care of the aborigines and subject

races. He made provision for the education of women. He made,
he was the first monarch to make, an attempt to educate his
people into a common view of the ends and way of life. He

made vast benefactions to the Buddhist teaching orders, and tried

to stimulate them to a better study of their own literature. All
over the land beset up long inscriptions rehearsing the teaching of
Gautama, and it is the simple and human teaching and not the
preposterous accretions.

Thirty-five of his inscriptions survive to this day. Moreover, he

sent missionaries to spread the noble and reasonable teaching of
his master throughout the world, to Kashmir, to Ceylon, to the
Seleucids, and the Ptolemies. It was one of these missions which
carried that cutting of the Bo Tree, of which we have already
told, to Ceylon (end of quote).

The Reason for the Third Council

The Third Council was held primarily in order to rid the Sangha
of corruption and bogus bhikkhus who held heretical views. The
Council was convened at Asokarama in Pataliputta. It was
presided over by the Elder Moggaliputta Tissa and one thousand
bhikkhus under the patronage of the Emperor Asoka.

Asoka was crowned in the two hundred and eighteenth year after
the Buddha's Parinibbana. At first he paid only token homage to
the Dhamma and the Sangha and supported members of other
religious sects as well, as his father had done before him.
However, all this changed when he met the pious novice-bhikkhu
Nigrodha who preached to him the Appamada-vagga (Refer to
Study Notes).

Thereafter, he ceased supporting other religious groups and his

interest in and devotion to the Dhamma deepened. With his
powers and his enormous wealth he caused to be built eighty-
four thousand pagodas, temples and viharas all over his empire
and supported the bhikkhus lavishly with the four requisites daily.
His son Mahinda and his daughter Sanghamitta were ordained
and admitted to the Sangha.

Eventually, his generosity caused serious problems within the

Sangha; the order became infiltrated by many unworthy men,
holding heretical views and who were attracted to the order only

by the Emperor's generous support and costly offerings of food,

clothing, shelter and medicine.

Large numbers of faithless, greedy men espousing wrong views

who were unfit for ordination joined the order. Some seized the
chance to exploit the Emperor's generosity for their own ends
and donned robes and joined the order without having been
correctly ordained. Consequently, respect for the Sangha
diminished. When this came to light, the genuine bhikkhus
refused to hold the prescribed Uposatha ceremony in the
company of the corrupt bhikkhus.

When the Emperor heard about this he sought to rectify the

situation and dispatched one of his ministers to the bhikkhus with
the command that they perform the ceremony. However, the
Emperor had given the minister no specific orders as to what
means were to be used to carry out his command. The bhikkhus
refused to obey and refuse to hold the ceremony in the company
of their false and 'thieving' companions.

In desperation the angry minister advanced down the line of

seated bhikkhus and drawing his sword, beheaded all of them
one after the other until he came to the King's brother, Tissa who
had ordained. The horrified minister stopped the slaughter and
fled the hall and reported back to the Emperor Asoka who was
deeply grieved and upset by what had happened and blamed
himself for the killings.

He sought Thera Moggaliputta Tissa's counsel, who advised that

false bhikkhus be expelled from the order and that a council be
convened immediately to achieve this purpose. So it was that in
the seventeenth year of the Emperor's reign the Third Council was

The Emperor himself, questioned bhikkhus from a number of

monasteries to ascertain their views about the teachings of the
Buddha. Those who held wrong views were exposed and
immediately expelled from the Sangha. In this way the Sangha
was purged of false bhikkhus.

Thereafter, the Thera Moggaliputta Tissa convened the Council

and hand-picked one thousand bhikkhus for the recitation of the
Dhamma-Vinaya, which went on for nine months.

Thus, was the Dhamma-Vinaya brought back to its pristine purity.

This council achieved a number of other important things as well.

Thera Moggaliputta Tissa, in order to refute a number of heresies
and ensure the Dhamma was kept pure, compiled a book during
the Council called the Kathavatthu.

Sending Out Missions Overseas

One of the most significant
achievements of this
assembly and one which was
to bear fruit for centuries to
come, was the Emperor's
sending forth of bhikkhus,
well versed in the Buddha's
Dhamma-Vinaya who could
recite all of it by heart, to
teach it in nine different

These Dhammaduta bhikkhus included the Venerable Majjhantika

Thera who went to Kashmir and Gandhara. He was asked to
preach the Dhamma and establish an order of bhikkhus there.

The Venerable Mahadeva was sent to Mahinsakamandala

(modern Mysore) and the Venerable Rakkhita Thera was
dispatched to Vanavasi (northern Kanara in the south of India.)

The Venerable Yonaka Dhammarakkhita Thera was sent to Upper

Aparantaka (northern Gujarat, Kathiwara, Kutch and Sindh).

The Venerable Maharakkhita Thera went to Yonaka-loka (the

land of the lonians, Bactrians and the Greeks.)

The Venerable Majjhima Thera went to Himavant (the place

adjoining the Himalayas.)

The Venerable Sona and the Venerable Uttara were sent to

Suvannabhumi (now Myamar).

The Venerabless Mahinda Thera, Ittiya Thera, Uttiya Thera, the

Sambala Thera and the Bhaddasala Thera were sent to
Tambapanni (now Sri Lanka).

The Dhamma missions of these bhikkhus succeeded and bore

great fruits in the course of time and went a long way in
ennobling the peoples of these lands with the gift of the
Dhamma and influencing their civilizations and cultures.

Decline of Buddhism
After King Asoka, Buddhism started its initial decline. Given
herewith are some causes advanced for the decline of Buddhism
in India, the home of its birth (see Study Note).

Vinay Lal (An Excerpt)

One of the supreme ironies of the history of Buddhism in India is

the question of how Buddhism came to disappear from the land
of its birth. Many scholars of Buddhism, Hinduism, Indian history,
and of religion more generally have been devoted to unraveling
this puzzle. There is no absolute consensus on this matter, and a
few scholars have even contended that Buddhism never
disappeared as such from India. On this view, Buddhism simply
changed form, or was absorbed into Hindu practices. Such an
argument is, in fact, a variation of the view, which perhaps has
more adherents than any other, that Buddhism disappeared, not
on account of persecution by Hindus, but because of the
ascendancy of reformed Hinduism. However, the view that
Buddhists were persecuted by Brahmins, who were keen to assert
their caste supremacy, still has some adherents, and in recent
years has been championed not only by some Dalit writers and
their sympathizers but by at least a handful of scholars of pre-
modern Indian history.

What is not disputed is the gradual decline of Buddhism in India,

as the testimony of the Chinese traveler, Hsuan Tsang, amply
demonstrates. Though Buddhism had been the dominant religion
in much of the Gangetic plains in the early part of the Christian
era, Hsuan Tsang, traveling in India in the early years of the 7th
century, witnessed something quite different. In Prayag, or
Allahabad as it is known to many, Hsuan Tsang encountered
mainly heretics, or non-Buddhists, but that is not surprising given
the importance of Prayag as a pilgrimage site for Brahmins. But,
even in Sravasti, the capital city of the Lichhavis, a north Indian
clan that came to power around 200 AD, established their capital
in Pasupathinath, and in a long and glorious period of reign
extending through the early part of the ninth century endowed a
large number of both Hindu and Buddhist monuments and
monasteries, Hsuan Tsang witnessed a much greater number of
“Hindus” (ie, non-Buddhists, such as Jains and Saivites) than

Kusinagar, the small village some 52 kilometres from Gorakhpur

where the Buddha had gone into mahaparinirvana, was in a
rather dilapidated state and Hsuan Tsang found few Buddhists. In
Varanasi, to be sure, Hsuan Tsang found some 3000 bhikkus or
Buddhist monks, but they were outshadowed by more than
10,000 non-Buddhists. There is scarcely any question that Hsuan
Tsang arrived in India at a time when Buddhism was entering into
a state of precipitous decline, and by the 13th century Buddhism,
as a formal religion, had altogether disappeared from India. But
even as Buddhism went into decline, it is remarkable that the
great seat of Buddhist learning, Nalanda, continued to flourish,
retaining its importance until the Muslim invasions of the second
millennium. Moreover, it is from Nalanda that Padmasambhava
carried Buddhism to Tibet in the eighth century. Consequently,
even the story of Buddhism in India cannot be unequivocally
written in a single register of decline.

To consider the question somewhat more systematically, we

might wish to consider in serial order the various reasons
advanced for Buddhism’s decline and disappearance from India.

The various arguments can be grouped under the following


Sectarian and internal histories,

histories focusing on schisms within the
Buddhist faith, the widening differences between the clergy,
bhikkus, and laity, and the growing corruption within the sangha;
histories focused on Buddhism’s relations with Brahmanism,
dwelling on the alleged persecution of Buddhists by Brahmins, the
defeat of the Buddhists by the great theologian Shankara in public
debates, as well as on the supposedly characteristic tendency of
Hinduism, or rather Brahmanism, to absorb its opponents; and,
secular and political histories,
histories which emphasize the withdrawal of
royal patronage from Buddhism and, later, the Muslim invasions
which had the effect of driving into extinction an already
debilitated faith.

Turning our attention to what I have described as sectarian

histories, it is generally conceded that the Buddhist clergy paid
insufficient attention to its laity. Buddhist mendicants kept their
distance from non-mendicants, and as scholars of Buddhism have
noted, no manual for the conduct of the laity was produced until
the 11th century. Non-mendicants may not have felt particularly
invested in their religion, and as the venues where the mendicants
and non-mendicants intersected gradually disappeared, the laity
might have felt distanced from the faith. The contrast, in this
respect, with Jainism is marked. Some scholars have also
emphasized the narrative of decay and corruption within a faith
where the monks had come to embrace a rather easy-going and
even indolent lifestyle, quite mindless of the Buddha’s insistence
on aparigraha, or non-possession. The Buddhist monasteries are
sometimes described as repositories of great wealth.

The secular and political histories adopt rather different

arguments. It has been argued that royal patronage shifted from
Buddhist to Hindu religious institutions. Under the Kushanas,
indeed even under the Guptas (325-497 AD), both Buddhists and
adherents of Brahmanism received royal patronage, but as
Brahmanism veered off, so to speak, into Vaishnavism and
Saivism, and regional kingdoms developed into the major sites of
power, Buddhism began to suffer a decline. The itinerant
Buddhist monk, if one may put it this way, gave way to forms of
life more conducive to settled agriculture. The Palas of Bengal,
though they had been hospitable to Vaishnavism and Saivism,
were nonetheless major supporters of Buddhism. However,
when Bengal came under the rule of the Senas (1097-1223),
Saivism was promulgated and Buddhism was pushed out towards

Though Buddhism had already entered into something of a

decline by the time of Hsuan Tsang’s visit to India during the
reign of Harsha of Kanauj in the early seventh century, it has also
been argued that its further demise, particularly in the early part
of the second millennium AD, was hastened by the arrival of
Islam. On this view, Buddhism found competition in Islam for
converts among low-caste Hindus. Even Ambedkar, whose

animosity towards Hinduism is palpable, was nonetheless firmly

of the view that Islam dealt Buddhism a death blow.

As he was to put it, “brahmanism beaten and battered by the

Muslim invaders could look to the rulers for support and
sustenance and get it. Buddhism beaten and battered by the
Muslim invaders had no such hope. It was uncared for orphan
and it withered in the cold blast of the native rulers and was
consumed in the fire lit up by the conquerors.” Ambedkar was
quite certain that this was “the greatest disaster that befell the
religion of Buddha in India.”

We thus find Ambekdar embracing the “sword of Islam thesis”:

“The sword of Islam fell heavily upon the priestly class. It
perished or it fled outside India. Nobody remained alive to keep
the flame of Buddhism burning.” There are, of course, many
problems with this view. The “sword of Islam” thesis remains
controversial, at best, and many reputable historians are inclined
to dismiss it outright. Islam was, moreover, a late entrant into
India, and Buddhism was showing unmistakable signs of its
decline long before Islam became established in the Gangetic
plains, central India, and the northern end of present-day Andhra
and Karnataka.

Many narrative accounts of Buddhism’s decline and eventual

disappearance from the land of its faith have been focused on
Buddhism’s relations with Hinduism or Brahmanism. Nearly 20
years ago the historian S. R. Goyal wrote that "according to many
scholars hostility of the Brahmanas was one of the major causes
of the decline of Buddhism in India." The Saivite king, Shashanka,
invariably appears in such histories as a ferocious oppressor of the
Buddhists, though the single original source for all subsequent
narratives about Shashanka’s ruinous conduct towards Buddhists
remains Hsuan Tsang. Shashanka is reported to have destroyed
the Bodhi tree and ordered the destruction of Buddhist images.
Hindu nationalists appear to think that many Muslim monuments
were once Hindu temples, but partisans of Buddhism are inclined
to the view that Hindu temples were often built on the site of
Buddhist shrines.

Time: 450 B.E (29 B.C)
Place: The
The Aloka Cave in Matale District,
District, Sri Lanka
Duration: One Year

The Fourth Council was held in Tambapanni (Sri Lanka) in 29

B.C. under the patronage of King Vattagamani.

About 450 years after the Buddha’s Parinibbana, a famine struck

Ceylon. For twelve years food was so scarce that the Order of
monks was almost decimated partly. Some of the laity even
turned to cannibalism. Due to this tragical condition, the
Dhamma-Vinaya were in danger of being lost as monks were too
weak to chant the texts. When at last the famine ended, it was
decided that the texts needed to be put into writing for their
greater protection. Not only the famine, but the danger of
frequent invasions from South India, the entry into the Order of
irresponsible and irreligious people, and the fickle favour of kings
also played a part in this decision. Accordingly, a Fourth Council
was convened.

King Vattagamani supported

the bhikkhu's idea and a
council was held specifically
to enshrine the Tipitaka in
its entirety in written form.
Thus in an endeavour to
preserve the Dhamma-
Vinaya in its pristine
originality, the Venerable
Maharakkhita and five hundred bhikkhus recited the words of the
Buddha and painstakingly wrote them down on palm leaves.

This remarkable council took place in a cave called, the Aloka

Lena, situated in the cleft of an ancient landslip near what is now
Matale. Thus the aim of the Council was achieved and the
preservation of the authentic Dhamma-Vinaya was ensured. After
the Council, palm leaves books appeared, and were taken to
other countries, such as Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.

The Tipitaka and its commentaries were originally brought to Sri

Lanka by the missionary bhikkhu Mahinda of the Third Buddhist

There is also another Council held and named as the Fourth

Council. This 2nd Fourth Council is said to have been convened
by the Kushan emperor Kanishka, perhaps around 100 CE at
Jalandhar or in Kashmir. This Fourth Council of Kashmir is not
recognised as authoritative in the Theravada tradition; reports of
this council can be found in scriptures which were kept in the
Mahayana tradition.

It is believed that it was also around this time that a significant

change was made to the language of the Buddha’s words.
Learned scholars began to convert the Buddha’s words to
Sanskrit. Although this change was probably effected without
significant loss of integrity to the canon, this event was of
particular significance since Sanskrit was the official holy language
of Brahmanism in India, and was also being used by other
thinkers (regardless of their specific religious or philosophical
allegiance), thus enabling a far wider audience to gain access to
Buddhist ideas and practices and thus open the gates to possible
corruption of the original words of the Buddha.

For this reason, all major Buddhist scholars in India thereafter

wrote their commentaries and treatises in Sanskrit. Theravada
however never switched to Sanskrit. The language of the
Theravada scriptures has always been in Pali.

In the centuries after this Council the texts continued to be

preserved as much by recital as by manuscript, for making even
one handwritten copy of the five Nikáyas, of the Vinaya, and of
all the material that had evolved and survived alongside them,
the Abhidhamma, the Commentaries, the Chronicles, and so
forth, would have been a labour of many years and then the
manuscript had to be preserved against the manifold dangers of
destruction. But by this time the Dhamma-Vinaya were firmly
embedded in the minds of those who learned them as being
sacred and unalterable by as much as a single syllable.

Time: 2415 B.E (November, 1871)
Place: Mandalay in Myanmar
Duration: Five months

The Fifth Council took place in

Mandalay, Burma now known
as Myanmar in 1871 A.D. in the
reign of King Mindon who was
one of the most popular and
revered kings of Myanmar. He
founded the last royal capital of
Burma, Mandalay, in 1857.

The chief objective of this

meeting was to recite the entire teachings of the Buddha and
examine them in minute detail to see if any of them had been
altered, distorted or discarded. It was presided over by three
Elders, the Venerables Mahathera Jagarabhivamsa,
Narindabhidhaja, and Mahathera Sumangalasami in the company
of some two thousand four hundred bhikkhus.

Their joint recitation lasted five months and after its completion
and unanimous approval as matching the original recitation of
the four previous Councils.

The unique feature of this Council was the decision to inscribe in

the Myanmar script, the entire Tipitaka on seven hundred and
twenty-nine marble slabs. This task, by two thousand four
hundred learned bhikkhus and many skilled craftsmen took seven
years, six months and fourteen days to complete. Each completed
slab was then housed in a beautiful miniature pagoda on a special
site in the grounds of King Mindon's Kuthodaw Pagoda at the
foot of Mandalay Hill, where they still stand.

Time: 2498 B.E (May, 1954);
1954); Duration: Two years.
Place: The Mahapasana
Mahapasana Great Cave, Kaba-
Kaba-Aye, Yangon,

The Sixth Council was

held at Kaba Aye in
Yangon, in 1954,
eighty-three years
after the fifth one was
held in Mandalay. It
was sponsored by the
Burmese Government
led by the then Prime
Minister, U Nu.

He authorised the
construction of an
artificial cave; the
Maha Passana Guha,
'the great cave', similar
to the original
Sattapanni Cave of the
(pic. shows entrance/interior of cave)

First Council. It measured 455 feet long and 370 feet broad. The
interior dimensions of the cave are 220 feet x 140 feet. The
assembly hall of the cave has the capacity to accommodate
around 10,000 people. Upon its completion the Council met on
the 17th of May, 1954, with the primary objective of affirming
and preserving the genuine Dhamma-Vinaya.

Two thousand five hundred learned Theravada bhikkhus from

Myanmar, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and
Vietnam convened for the purpose. The late Venerable Mahasi
Sayadaw was appointed the noble task of asking the required
questions about the Dhamma-Vinaya of the Venerable Bhadanta
Vicittasarabhivamsa who answered all of them learnedly and

The traditional recitation of the Buddhist Scriptures took two

years and the Tipitaka and its allied literature in all the scripts
were painstakingly examined and their differences noted down
and the necessary corrections made and all the versions were then
collated. Happily, it was found that there was not much
difference in the content of any of the texts.

Finally, after the Council had officially approved them, all of the
books of the Tipitaka and their Commentaries were prepared for
printing on modern presses and published in the Myanmar
(Burmese) script. This notable achievement was made possible
through the dedicated efforts of the two thousand five hundred
bhikkhus and numerous lay people. Their work came to an end in
May, 1956, two and a half millennia after the Lord Buddha's
Parinibbana. This Council's work was a unique achievement of
representatives from the entire Buddhist world. The version of
the Tipitaka which it undertook to produce has been recognised
as being true to the pristine teachings of the Buddha Gotama and
the most authoritative rendering of them to date.

The authencity and originality of the Councils have never been in

question and has served as the foundation for all streams of
breakaway sects of the Buddha’s teachings.


APPAMADA VAGGA - The Dhammapada Verses 21- 21-32

21. Heedfulness is the path to the Deathless. Heedlessness is the
path to death. The heedful die not. The heedless are as if
dead already.
22. Clearly understanding this excellence of heedfulness, the
wise exult therein and enjoy the resort of the Noble Ones.
23. The wise ones, ever meditative and steadfastly persevering,
alone experience Nibbana, the incomparable freedom from
24. Ever grows the glory of him who is energetic, mindful and
pure in conduct, discerning and self-controlled, righteous
and heedful.
25. By effort and heedfulness, discipline and self-mastery, let
the wise one make for himself an island which no flood can
26. The foolish and ignorant indulge in heedlessness, but the
wise one keeps his heedfulness as his best treasure.
27. Do not give way to heedlessness. Do not indulge in sensual
pleasures. Only the heedful and meditative attain great
28. Just as one upon the summit of a mountain beholds the
groundlings, even so when the wise man casts away
heedlessness by heedfulness and ascends the high tower of
wisdom, this sorrowless sage beholds the sorrowing and
foolish multitude.
29. Heedful among the heedless, wide-awake among the sleepy,
the wise man advances like a swift horse leaving behind a
weak jade.
30. By Heedfulness did Indra become the overlord of the gods.
Heedfulness is ever praised, and heedlessness ever despised.
31. The monk who delights in heedfulness and looks with fear
at heedlessness advances like fire, burning all fetters, small
and large.
32. The monk who delights in heedfulness and looks with fear
at heedlessness will not fall. He is close to Nibbana.

What is needed most urgently to train and subdue the mind is a

quality called heedfulness (appamada). Heedfulness combines
critical self awareness and unremitting energy in a process of
keeping the mind under constant observation to detect and expel
the defiling impulses whenever they seek an opportunity to

In a world where man has no saviour but himself, and where the
means to his deliverance lies in mental purification, heedfulness
becomes the crucial factor for ensuring that the aspirant keeps to
the straight path of training without deviating due to the
seductive allurements of sense pleasures or the stagnating
influences of laziness and complacency.

Heedfulness, the Buddha declares, is the path to the Deathless;

heedlessness, the path to death. The wise who understand this
distinction abide in heedfulness and experience Nibbana, "the
incomparable freedom from bondage".

THE STORY OF NIGRODHA (condensed from the Mahavamsa).

When Bindusara had fallen sick Asoka left the
government of Ujjeni conferred on him by his father,
and came to Pupphapura, and when he had made
himself master of the city, after his father's death, he
caused his eldest brother, Sumana to be slained and
took on himself the sovereignty in the splendid city.

The consort of prince Sumana, who bore the same

name (Sumana), being with child, fled straightway by
the east gate and went to a candala village, and
there the guardian god of a nigrodha-tree called her
by her name, built a hut and gave it to her. And as,
at that very day, she bore a beautiful boy, she gave to her son the
name Nigrodha, enjoying the protection of the guardian god.

Then, as the thera Mahavaruna saw that the boy bore the signs of
his destiny, the arahant questioned his mother and ordained him,
and even in the room where they shaved him, he (Nigrodha)
attained to the state of arahant.

Going thence to visit his royal mother, Nigrodha entered the

splendid city by the south gate, and following the road that led
to that village, he passed (on his way) the king's court. Well
pleased was the king by his grave bearing, but kindly feeling arose
in him also by reason of a former life lived together.

The king summoned him in all haste into his presence; but he
came staidly and calmly thither. And the king said to him: 'Sit, my
dear, upon a fitting seat.'

Since he saw no other bhikkhu there he approached the royal

throne. Then, as he stepped toward the throne, the king thought:
'To-day, this samanera will be lord in my house!'

Leaning on the king's hand he (the monk) mounted the throne

and took his seat on the royal throne under the white canopy.
And seeing him seated there king Asoka rejoiced greatly that he
(Asoka) had honoured him (Nigrodha) according to his rank.

When he had refreshed Nigrodha with hard and soft foods

prepared for himself he questioned the samanera concerning the
doctrine taught by the Buddha. Then the samanera preached the

And when the lord of the earth had heard the Venerable
Nigrodha, he was won to the doctrine of the Conqueror.

VASSA: The annual rain-retreat undertaken by bhikkhus for a

three-month period during the rainy season usually from July to
October. During this time bhikkhus remain in a single place,
generally in their monasteries. Most monks dedicate the Vassa to
intensive meditation. Taking benefit from the Sangha’s presence,
the laity will also take the opportunity to reaffirm and further
develop their spiritual training. Some will even adopt ascetic
practices and some take up temporary monkhood for the period
of Vassa and return to lay life afterwards. Commonly, the
number of years a monk has spent in monastic life is expressed by
counting the number of Vassas he has ordained.

The observation of Vassa arose due partly to the practical

difficulties of travel in that season, and also to ethical concerns
about causing injury to the tiny creatures that become abundant
after the rains and in order to avoid damaging crops.

Vassa begins on the first day of the waning moon of the eighth
lunar month. The end of vassa is marked by joyous celebration.
The following month, the Kathina ceremony is held, during which
the laity gather to make formal offerings of robe cloth and other
requisites to the Sangha.

KASSAPA: Among those of the Buddha's disciples who
were closest to him, there were two friends, Sariputta and Maha
Moggallana, who were the chief disciples of the Buddha, an
exemplary pair of disciples. There were also two brothers,
Ananda and Anuruddha, who were likewise eminent "Fathers of
the Order." In between these two pairs stands a great solitary
figure, Pipphali Kassapa, who later was called Maha Kassapa,
Kassapa the Great, to distinguish him from the others of the
Kassapa clan, such as Kumara Kassapa and Uruvela Kassapa.

After Sariputta and Maha Moggallana had passed away,

predeceasing the Buddha, it was Maha Kassapa who was held in
greatest respect and reverence in the Order. But even after the
Buddha's passing away, Maha Kassapa did not become the
elected head of the Order of Monks, as it had been the Buddha's
express wish that there should not be a supreme authoritative
head of the Sangha. Shortly before his passing away, the Buddha
had said: "That which I have proclaimed and made known,
Ananda, as the Teaching and the Discipline (Dhamma-Vinaya),
that shall be your Master when I am gone" (D.16).

Yet the leadership characteristics emanating from Maha Kassapa

made him particularly honoured and venerated in the Sangha.
There were many factors that contributed to his pre-eminent
position after the death of the Master. He had been praised by
the Buddha as being equal to him in many respect and he shared
with the Master seven of the thirty-two "Marks of a Great Man."
He had been the only monk with whom the Buddha had

exchanged robes. Maha Kassapa possesses to the highest degree

the ten "qualities that inspire confidence. He was also a model of
a disciplined and austere life devoted to meditation. So it is no
wonder that he was elected to preside over the First Council of
the Sangha which had been summoned on his urgent advice.

Like the two chief disciples, Sariputta and Maha Moggallana,

Maha Kassapa too descended from the brahman caste, and again
like them, he was older than the Buddha. He was born in the
Magadha country, in the village of Mahatittha, as the son of the
brahman Kapila and his wife Sumanadevi. He was called Pipphali.

His father owned sixteen villages over which he ruled like a little
king, so Pipphali grew up in the midst of wealth and luxury. Yet
already in his young years there was in him the wish to leave the
worldly life behind, and hence he did not want to marry. When
his parents repeatedly urged him to take a wife, he told them that
he would look after them as long as they live, but that after their
deaths he wanted to become an ascetic. Yet they insisted again
and again that he take a wife, so to comfort his mother he finally
agreed to marry; on the condition that a girl could be found who
conformed to his idea of perfection.

For that purpose he shaped a golden statue of a beautiful

woman, had it bedecked with fine garments and ornaments, and
showed it to his parents, saying: "If you can find a woman like
this for me, I shall remain in the home life."

His parents approached eight brahmans, showered them with rich

gifts, and asked them to take the image with them and travel
around in search of a human likeness of it. The brahmans
thought: "Let us first go to the Madda country, which is, as it
were, a gold mine of beautiful women."

There they found at Sagala a girl whose beauty equaled that of

the image. She was Bhadda Kapilani, a wealthy brahman's
daughter, aged sixteen, four years younger than Pipphali Kassapa.
Her parents agreed to the marriage proposal, and the brahmans
returned to tell of their success.

Bhadda Kapilani too did not wish to marry, as it was her singular
wish to live a religious life as a female ascetic. Such identity
between her aspiration and Pipphali Kassapa's may well point to
a kammic bond and affinity between them in the past, maturing
in their present life and leading to a decisive meeting between
them and a still more decisive separation later on.

When Pipphali heard that what he had thought most unlikely had
actually occurred, he was unhappy and sent the following letter
to the girl: "Bhadda, please marry someone else of equal status
and live a happy home life with him. As for myself, I shall
become an ascetic. Please do not have regrets." Bhadda Kapilani,
like-minded as she was, independently sent him a similar letter.
But their parents, suspecting such an exchange would take place,
had both letters intercepted on the way and replaced by letters of

So Bhadda was taken to Magadha and the young couple were

married. However, in accordance with their ascetic yearning,
both agreed to maintain a life of celibacy. To give expression to
their resolve, they would lay a garland of flowers between them
before they went to bed, determined not to yield to sensual

This young wealthy couple lived thus happily and in comfort for
many years. As long as Pipphali's parents lived, they did not even
have to look after the estate's farms. But when his parents died,
they took charge of the large property.

One day, however, when Pipphali Kassapa was inspecting the

fields, it happened that he saw, as if with new eyes, what he had
seen so often before. He observed that when his people plowed,
many birds gathered and eagerly picked the worms from the
furrows. This sight, so common to a farmer, now startled him. It
now struck him forcefully that what brought him his wealth, the
produce of his fields, was bound up with the suffering of other
living beings. His livelihood was purchased with the death of so
many worms and other little creatures living in the soil. Thinking
about this, he asked one of his laborers: "Who will have to bear

the consequences of such an action?" — "You yourself, sir," was

the answer.

Shaken by that insight into kammic retribution, he went home

and reflected: "If I have to carry along the burden of guilt for that
killing, what use is all that wealth to me? It will be better if I give
it all to Bhadda and go forth into the ascetic's life."

But at home, at about the same time, his wife had a similar
experience. She too saw afresh with a deeper understanding what
she had very often seen before. Sesamum seeds had been spread
out in the open to dry, and crows and other birds ate the insects
that had been attracted by the seeds. When Bhadda asked her
servants who it was that had to account morally for the violent
death of so many creatures, she was told that the kammic
responsibility was hers. Then she thought: "If even by that much I
commit a wrong, I won't be able to lift my head above the ocean
of rebirths, even in a thousand lives. As soon as Pipphali returns, I
shall hand over everything to him and leave to take up the ascetic

When both found themselves of one accord, they had pale-

yellow cloth and clay bowls brought for them from the bazaar,
and then shaved each other's head. They thus became like ascetic
wanderers, and they made the aspiration: "Those who are
Arahants in the world, to them we dedicate our going forth!"

Slinging their almsbowls over their shoulders, they left the estate's
manor, unnoticed by the house servants. But when they reached
the next village, which belonged to the estate, the laborers and
their families saw them. Crying and lamenting, they fell to the
feet of the two ascetics and exclaimed: "Oh, dear and noble ones!
Why do you want to make us helpless orphans?"

"It is because we have seen the three worlds to be like a house

afire, therefore we go forth into the homeless life." To those who
were serfs, Pipphali Kassapa granted their freedom, and he and
Bhadda continued on their road, leaving the villagers behind still

When walking on, Kassapa went ahead while Bhadda followed

behind him. Considering this, Kassapa thought: "Now, this
Bhadda Kapilani follows me close behind, and she is a woman of
great beauty. Some people could easily think, 'Though they are
ascetics, they still cannot live without each other! It is unseemly
what they are doing.' If they spoil their minds by such wrong
thoughts or even spread false rumors, they will cause harm to
themselves." So he thought it better that they separate.

When they reached a crossroads Kassapa said: "Bhadda, you take

one of these roads, and I shall go the other way." She said: "It is
true, for ascetics a woman is an obstacle. People might think and
speak badly about us. So please go your own way, and we shall
now part."

She then respectfully circumambulated him thrice, saluted him at

his feet, and with folded hands she spoke: "Our close
companionship and friendship that had lasted for an
unfathomable past comes to an end today. Please take the path
to the right and I shall take the other road." Thus they parted and
went their individual ways, seeking the high goal of Arahantship,
final deliverance from suffering. It is said that the earth, shaken by
the power of their virtue, quaked and trembled.

Each went their different ways and both attained to the stage of
arahant in due time.

ARAHANTHOOD A person on the
road to being an arahant passes through four stages.

The first stage is that of Sotapanna

Sot panna,
panna literally meaning "one who
enters the stream of Nibbana”. A stream-enterer is guaranteed
enlightenment after no more than seven successive rebirths, and
may even be fewer. The stream-enterer can also be sure that he
will not be reborn in any of the unhappy states (an animal, a
peta, or in hell). He can only be reborn as an intelligent human
being, or in a heaven plane.

The stream-enterer has complete faith in the Buddha, eradicated

the concept of “self” and is not concerned with rites and rituals

Sakadagami: A Once-
The second stage is that of the Sakadagami literally meaning "one
who return once” or a once returner. The once-returner will
return to the human world only one more time, and will attain
nibbana in that life.

An gami
Anag mi or a Non-
The third stage is that of the Anagami, literally meaning "one who
does not come again” or a non-returner. The non-returner does
not come back into human existence, or any lower world, after
death. Instead, he is reborn in one of the Suddhavasa worlds, or
"Pure Abodes", where he will attain Nibbana; some of them are
reborn a second time in a higher world of the Pure Abodes, but
in no case are born into a lower state. An Anagami has
abandoned the five lower fetters that bind the mind to the cycle
of rebirth. An Anagami is thus partially enlightened, and on the
way to perfect and complete Enlightenment.

An Arahant
The fourth stage is that of Arahant, a fully enlightened human
being who has abandoned all fetters, and who upon decease, he
enters Nibbana and will not be reborn in any world, having
wholly eradicated all defilement.

RULES The first division of the Tipitaka, is the
textual framework upon which the monastic community
(Sangha) is built. It includes not only the rules governing the
life of every Theravada bhikkhu (monk) and bhikkhuni (nun), but
also a host of procedures and conventions of etiquette that
support harmonious relations, both among the monastics
themselves, and between the monastics and their lay supporters,
upon whom they depend for all their material needs.

When the Buddha first established the Sangha, the community

initially lived in harmony without any rules of conduct. As the
Sangha gradually grew in number and evolved into a more
complex society, occasions inevitably arose when a member
would act in an unskillful way. Whenever one of these cases was
brought to the Buddha's attention, he would lay down a rule
establishing a suitable punishment for the offence, as a deterrent
to future misconduct.

The four parajikas are rules entailing expulsion from the sangha
for life. If a monk breaks any one of the rules he is automatically
'defeated' in the holy life and falls from monkhood immediately.
He is not allowed to become a monk again in his lifetime.
Intention is necessary in all these four cases to constitute an
offence. The four parajikas for bhikkus are:

(1) Sexual intercourse (2) Stealing (3) Intentionally bringing

about the death of a human being, even if it is still an embryo (4)
Deliberately lying to another person that one has attained a
superior human state, such as claiming to be an arahant when one
knows one is not, or claiming to have attained one of the jhanas
when one knows one hasn't.

The thirteen sanghadisesas are rules requiring an initial and
subsequent meeting of the sangha (communal meetings). If the
monk breaks any rule here he has to undergo a period of
probation or discipline after which, if he shows himself to be
repentant, he may be reinstated by a sangha of not less than
twenty monks. Like the parajikas, the sanghadisesas can only
come about through the monk's own intention and cannot be
accidentally invoked.

The aniyata are two indefinite rules where a monk is accused of
having committed an offence with a woman in a screened
(enclosed) or private place by a lay person. It is indefinite because
the final outcome depends on whether the monk acknowledges

the offence. Benefit of the doubt is given to the monk unless

there is over-riding evidence. Thus it is not proper for a monk to
be alone with a woman, especially in screened or private places.

Nissaggiya Pacittiya
The nissaggiya pacittiya are thirty rules entailing "confession with
forfeiture." They are mostly concerned with the possessing of
items which are disallowed or obtained in disallowable ways. The
monk has to forfeit the item and then confess his offence to
another monk.

Patidesaniya are violations which must be verbally

The Blessed One's Prompting
Then the Blessed One, getting ready in the forenoon, took
bowl and robe and went into Vesali for alms. After the alms
round and meal, on his return, he spoke to the Venerable
Ananda, saying: "Take up a mat, Ananda, and let us spend the
day at the Capala shrine."
"So be it, Lord." And the Venerable Ananda took up a mat and
followed behind the Blessed One, step by step.

And the Blessed One went to the Capala shrine and sat down on
the seat prepared for him. And when the Venerable Ananda had
seated himself at one side after he had respectfully saluted the
Blessed One, the Lord said to him: "Pleasant, Ananda, is Vesali;
pleasant are the shrines of Udena, Gotamaka, Sattambaka,
Bahuputta, Sarandada, and Capala."

And the Blessed One said: "Whosoever, Ananda, has developed,

practised, employed, strengthened, maintained, scrutinised, and
brought to perfection the four constituents of psychic power
could, if he so desired, remain throughout a world-period or until
the end of it. The Tathagata, Ananda, has done so. Therefore the
Tathagata could, if He so desired, remain throughout a world-
period or until the end of it."

But the Venerable Ananda was unable to grasp the plain

suggestion, the significant prompting, given by the Blessed One.
As though his mind was influenced by Mara, he did not beseech
the Blessed One: "May the Blessed One remain, O Lord! May the
Happy One remain, O Lord, throughout the world-period, for
the welfare and happiness of the multitude, out of compassion
for the world, for the benefit, well being, and happiness of gods
and men!" And when for a second and a third time the Blessed
One repeated his words, the Venerable Ananda remained silent.

The Blessed One Relinquishes His Will to Live

And at the Capala shrine the Blessed One thus mindfully and
clearly comprehending renounced His will to live on. And upon
the Lord's renouncing His will to live on, there came a
tremendous earthquake, dreadful and astonishing, and thunder
rolled across the heavens.

Then it came to the mind of the Venerable Ananda: "Marvellous

it is indeed, and most wonderful! The earth shakes mightily,
tremendously! Dreadful and astonishing it is, how the thunders
roll across the heavens! What could be the reason, what the
cause, that so mighty an earthquake should arise?" He seeks the
Blessed One’s words.

Mara's Former Temptation

"There was a time, Ananda, when I dwelt at Uruvela, on the bank
of the Neranjara River, at the foot of the goatherds' banyan-tree,
soon after my supreme Enlightenment. And Mara, the Evil One,
approached me, saying: 'Now, O Lord, let the Blessed One come
to his final passing away! Let the Happy One utterly pass away!
The time has come for the Parinibbana of the Lord.'

"Then, Ananda, I answered Mara, the Evil One, saying: 'I shall not
come to my final passing away, Evil One, until my bhikkhus and
bhikkhunis, laymen and laywomen, have come to be true
disciples; wise, well disciplined, apt and learned, preservers of the
Dhamma, living according to the Dhamma, abiding by
appropriate conduct and, having learned the Master's word, are
able to expound it, preach it, proclaim it, establish it, reveal it,

explain it in detail, and make it clear; until, when adverse

opinions arise, they shall be able to refute them thoroughly and
well, and to preach this convincing and liberating Dhamma.

"'I shall not come to my final passing away, Evil One, until this
holy life taught by me has become successful, prosperous, far-
renowned, popular, and widespread, until it is well proclaimed
among gods and men.'

"And again today, Ananda, at the Capala shrine, Mara, the Evil
One, approached me, saying: 'Now, O Lord, bhikkhus and
bhikkhunis, laymen and laywomen, have come to be true
disciples of the Blessed One; wise, well disciplined, apt and
learned, preservers of the Dhamma, living according to the
Dhamma, abiding in the appropriate conduct, and having learned
the Master's word, are able to expound it, preach it, proclaim it,
establish it, reveal it, explain it in detail, and make it clear; and
when adverse opinions arise, they are now able to refute them
thoroughly and well, and to preach this convincing and liberating

"'And now, O Lord, this holy life taught by the Blessed One has
become successful, prosperous, far-renowned, popular and
widespread, and it is well proclaimed among gods and men.
Therefore, O Lord, let the Blessed One come to His final passing
away! Let the Happy One utterly pass away! The time has come
for the Parinibbana of the Lord.'

"And then, Ananda, I answered Mara, the Evil One, saying: 'Do
not trouble yourself, Evil One. Before long the Parinibbana of the
Tathagata will come about. Three months hence the Tathagata
will utterly pass away.'

"And in this way, Ananda, today at the Capala shrine the

Tathagata has renounced His will to live on."

Ananda's Appeal
At these words, the Venerable Ananda spoke to the Blessed One:
"May the Blessed One remain, O Lord! May the Happy One
remain, O Lord, throughout the world-period, for the welfare
and happiness of the multitude, out of compassion for the world,
for the benefit, well being, and happiness of gods and men!"

And the Blessed One answered, saying: "Enough, Ananda. Do not

entreat the Tathagata, for the time is past for such an entreaty."

But for a second and a third time, the Venerable Ananda said to
the Blessed One: "May the Blessed One remain, O Lord! May the
Happy One remain, O Lord, throughout the world-period, for
the welfare and happiness of the multitude, out of compassion
for the world, for the benefit, well being, and happiness of gods
and men!"

Then the Blessed One said: "Do you have faith, Ananda, in the
Enlightenment of the Tathagata?" And the Venerable Ananda
replied: "Yes, O Lord, I do."
"Then how, Ananda, can you persist against the Tathagata even
up to the third time?"

Then the Venerable Ananda said: "This, O Lord, I have heard and
learned from the Blessed One Himself when the Blessed One said
to me: 'Whosoever, Ananda, has developed, practised,
employed, strengthened, maintained, scrutinised, and brought to
perfection the four constituents of psychic power could, if he so
desired, remain throughout a world-period or until the end of it.
The Tathagata, Ananda, has done so. Therefore the Tathagata
could, if He so desired, remain throughout a world-period or
until the end of it.'"
"And did you believe it, Ananda?"
"Yes, O Lord, I did."
"Then, Ananda, the fault is yours. Herein have you failed,
inasmuch as you were unable to grasp the plain suggestion, the
significant prompting given by the Tathagata, and you did not
then entreat the Tathagata to remain. For if you had done so,
Ananda, twice the Tathagata might have declined, but the third

time He would have consented. Therefore, Ananda, the fault is

yours; herein have you failed.

"At Rajagaha, Ananda, when dwelling at Vultures' Peak, I spoke

to you, saying: 'Pleasant, Ananda, is Rajagaha; pleasant is
Vultures' Peak. Whosoever, Ananda, has developed... Therefore
the Tathagata could, if He so desired, remain throughout a
world-period or until the end of it.'

"So also at the Banyan Grove, at Robbers' Cliff, at the Sattapanni

Cave on the Vebhara Mountain, at the Black Rock of Isigili, at the
Serpents' Pool in the Cool Forest, at the Tapoda Grove, at the
Bamboo Grove in the Squirrels' Feeding-ground, at Jivaka's
Mango Grove, and at Small Nook in the Deer Park I spoke to you
in the same words, saying: 'Pleasant, Ananda, is Rajagaha,
pleasant are these places. Whosoever, Ananda, has developed...
Therefore the Tathagata could, if He so desired, remain
throughout a world-period or until the end of it.'

"So also at Vesali, Ananda, at different times the Tathagata has

spoken to you, saying: 'Pleasant, Ananda, is Vesali; pleasant are
the shrines of Udena, Gotamaka, Sattambaka, Bahuputta,
Sarandada, and Capala. Whosoever, Ananda, has developed...
Therefore the Tathagata could, if He so desired, remain
throughout a world-period or until the end of it.'

"Yet, Ananda, have I not taught from the very beginning that
with all that is dear and beloved there must be change,
separation, and severance? Of that which is born, come into
being, is compounded and subject to decay, how can one say:
'May it not come to dissolution!' There can be no such state of
things. And of that, Ananda, which the Tathagata has finished
with, that which He has relinquished, given up, abandoned, and
rejected; His will to live on; the Tathagata's word has been
spoken once for all: 'Before long the Parinibbana of the Tathagata
will come about. Three months hence the Tathagata will utterly
pass away.' And that the Tathagata should withdraw His words
for the sake of living on; this is an impossibility.

The Final Admonition

"So, then, Ananda, let us go to the hall of the Gabled House, in
the Great Forest." And the Venerable Ananda replied: "So be it,
Lord." And there He spoke to the Venerable Ananda, saying: "Go
now, Ananda, and assemble in the hall of audience all the
bhikkhus who dwell in the neighborhood of Vesali."

"So be it, Lord." And the Venerable Ananda gathered all the
bhikkhus who dwelt in the neighborhood of Vesali, and
assembled them in the hall of audience. And then, respectfully
saluting the Blessed One, and standing at one side, he said: "The
community of bhikkhus is assembled, Lord. Now let the Blessed
One do as he wishes."

Thereupon the Blessed One entered the hall of audience, and

taking the seat prepared for Him, He exhorted the bhikkhus,
saying: "Now, O bhikkhus, I say to you that these teachings of
which I have direct knowledge and which I have made known to
you; these you should thoroughly learn, cultivate, develop, and
frequently practice, that the life of purity may be established and
may long endure, for the welfare and happiness of the multitude,
out of compassion for the world, for the benefit, well being, and
happiness of gods and men.

"And what, bhikkhus, are these teachings? They are the four
foundations of mindfulness, the four right efforts, the four
constituents of psychic power, the five faculties, the five powers,
the seven factors of enlightenment, and the Noble Eightfold Path.

These, bhikkhus, are the teachings of which I have direct

knowledge, which I have made known to you, and which you
should thoroughly learn, cultivate, develop, and frequently
practice, that the life of purity may be established and may long
endure, for the welfare and happiness of the multitude, out of
compassion for the world, for the benefit, well being, and
happiness of gods and men."

Then the Blessed One said to the bhikkhus:

"So, bhikkhus, I exhort you:

All compounded
compounded things are subject to vanish.
Strive with earnestness.
The time of the Tathagata's Parinibbana is near.
Three months hence the Tathagata will utterly pass away."

And having spoken these words,

the Happy One,
the Master, spoke again, saying:
My years
years are now full ripe, the life span left is short.
Departing, I go hence from you, relying on myself alone.
Be earnest, then, O bhikkhus, be mindful and of virtue pure!
With firm resolve,
guard your own mind!
Whoso untiringly pursues the Dhamma and the Discipline
Shall go beyond the round of births and make an end of suffering.

Pajapati Gotami was the younger sister of Queen Maha
Maya and the second consort of King Suddhodana. She
was called Maha (great) Pajapati as sages had predicted that she
would be the leader of a large following. When her beloved sister
passed away seven days after giving birth to Prince Siddhattha,
she brought up her sister's baby as her own. Delegating the care
of her own son, Nanda, to nurses, Maha Pajapati nursed the
new-born child.

When the Buddha visited Kapilavatthu and dispensed the

Dhammapala Jataka to King Suddhodana, Maha Pajapati attained
the first stage of sainthood, Sotapanna. After King Suddhodana
passed away, Maha Pajapati decided that she too would enter
the Noble Order and lead the holy life under the Buddha. Her
son, Nanda, and grandson, little Rahula, had entered the Order
under the great sage.

The Buddha was visiting

Kapilavatthu to settle a
dispute that had arisen
between the Sakyans and
the Koliyas regarding the
waters of the Rohini River
when Maha Pajapati first
approached Him with the
request to permit women
to enter the Noble Order. Without stating the reason the Buddha
refused, saying, "O Gotami, let it not please you that women
should be allowed to do so". Maha Pajapati, however, did not
give up. A second and a third time she requested ordination for
women. In each instance the Buddha gave the same reply.

The Buddha then proceeded to Vesali to reside at the Mahavana

in the Kutagara Hall. The determined Maha Pajapati was not
discouraged. Cutting off her hair, she donned the yellow robes of
a monk, and with a large retinue of 500 Sakyan royal ladies,
walked the 150 miles to Vesali. Having entreated the Buddha and
again been refused ordination, the ladies all covered in dust, their
feet swollen and bleeding, they stood outside the hall, weeping.
When Ananda, the Buddha’s personal attendant, saw Maha
Pajapati and her group of ladies and heard the cause of their
grief, he decided to approach the Buddha on their behalf.

The compassionate Ananda pleaded on behalf of the ladies.

When the Buddha refused, Ananda asked Him if He felt that
women were incapable of reaching spiritual heights and
Arahanthship. The Buddha replied that women were as capable
as men of attaining spiritual development. He then looked back
into Maha Pajapati’s past lives. Seeing that Maha Pajapati had
made an aspiration many aeons ago to initiate the order of the
nuns, the fulfilment of which was to occur during His
dispensation, the Buddha relented, granted Ananda’s request, and
formed the order of the nuns.

The Buddha did not give the reason for His initial refusal to Maha
Pajapati. initial refusal was to strengthen the determination and
resolve of the noble ladies and to prepare them better for the
hardships they would have to face.

In India at the time of the Buddha, women were thought to be

inferior to men. They did not have much freedom and were
often not treated with respect. Women from noble families were
carefully secluded and shielded from abuse. The men ensured the
safety of the women. The Buddha's disciples often meditated in
forests and walked alone from city to city on lonely roads,
preaching the Dhamma.

The Buddha dispensed eight extra disciplinary (Vinaya) rules for

the nuns, mostly regarding the manner in which they would have
to respect and honour the monks who through necessity, would
have to protect them. He also prophesied that ordination of nuns
would result in the shortening of the time span in which His
teachings would remain on Earth.

The region separating China from Europe and Western Asia
is not the most hospitable in the world. Much of it is taken up by
the Taklimakan desert, one of the most hostile environments on
our planet. There is very little vegetation, and almost no rainfall;
sandstorms are very common, and have claimed the lives of
countless people. The land surrounding the Taklimakan is equally

The Early History of the

the Region
On the eastern and western sides of the continent, the
civilisations of China and the West developed. The western end
of the trade route appears to have developed earlier than the
eastern end, principally because of the development of the
empires in the west, and the easier terrain of Persia and Syria. The
Iranian empire of Persia was in control of a large area of the
Middle East, extending as far as the Indian Kingdoms to the east.

Trade between these two neighbours was already starting to

influence the cultures of these regions.

This region was taken over by Alexander the Great of Macedon,

who finally conquered the Iranian empire, and colonised the area
in about 330 B.C., superimposing the culture of the Greeks.
Although he only ruled the area until 325 B.C., the effect of the
Greek invasion was quite considerable. The Greek language was
brought to the area, and Greek mythology was introduced. The
aesthetics of Greek sculpture were merged with the ideas
developed from the Indian kingdoms, and a separate local school
of art emerged.

Close on the heels of the Parthians came the Yuezhi people from
the Northern borders of the Taklimakan. They had been driven
from their traditional homeland by the Xiongnu tribe (who later
became the Huns and transferred their attentions towards
Europe), and settled in Northern India. Their descendents became
the Kushan people, and in the first century A.D. they moved into
this crossroads area, bringing their adopted Buddhist religion with

Like the other tribes before them, they adopted much of the
Greek system that existed in the region. The product of this
marriage of cultures was the Gandhara culture, based in what is
now the Peshawar region of northwest Pakistan. This fused Greek
and Buddhist art into a unique form, many of the sculptures of
Buddhist deities bearing strong resemblances to the Greek
mythological figure Heracles. The Kushan people were the first to
show Buddha in human form, as before this time artists had
preferred symbols such as the footprint, stupa or tree of
enlightenment, either out of a sense of sacrilege or simply to
avoid persecution.

Secondly, the Silk Road was not a trade route that existed solely
for the purpose of trading in silk; many other commodities were
also traded, from gold and ivory to exotic animals and plants. Of
all the precious goods crossing this area, silk was perhaps the most
remarkable for the people of the West.

In addition to silk, the route carried many other precious

commodities. Caravans heading towards China carried gold and
other precious metals, ivory, precious stones, and glass, which
was not manufactured in China until the fifth century. In the
opposite direction furs, ceramics, jade, bronze objects, lacquer
and iron were carried. Many of these goods were bartered for
others along the way, and objects often changed hands several
times. There are no records of Roman traders being seen in
Changan, nor Chinese merchants in Rome, though their goods
were appreciated in both places. This would obviously have been
in the interests of the Parthians and other middlemen, who took
as large a profit from the change of hands as they could.

The Han dynasty set up the local government at Wulei, not far
from Kuqa on the northern border of the Taklimakan, in order to
`protect' the states in this area, which numbered about 50 at the
time. At about the same period the city of Gaochang was
constructed in the Turfan basin. This developed into the centre of
the Huihe kingdom; these peoples later became the Uygur
minority who now make up a large proportion of the local
population. Many settlements were set up along the way, mostly
in the oasis areas, and profited from the passing trade. They also
absorbed a lot of the local culture, and the cultures that passed
them by along the route. Very few merchants traversed the full
length of the road; most simply covered part of the journey,
selling their wares a little further from home, and then returning
with the proceeds. Goods therefore tended to moved slowly
across Asia, changing hands many times. Local people no doubt
acted as guides for the caravans over the most dangerous sections
of the journey.

After the Western Han dynasty, successive dynasties brought

more states under Chinese control. Settlements came and went, as
they changed hands or lost importance due to a change in the

The most significant commodity carried along this route was not
silk, but religion. Buddhism came to China from India this way,
along the northern branch of the route.

The first influences came as the passes over the Karakorum were
first explored. The Eastern Han emperor Mingdi is thought to
have sent a representative to India to discover more about this
strange faith, and further missions returned bearing scriptures, and
bringing with them India priests.

With this came influences from the Indian sub-continent,

including Buddhist art work, examples of which have been found
in several early second century tombs in present-day Sichuan
province. This was considerably influenced by the Himalayan
Massif, an effective barrier between China and India, and hence
the Buddhism in China is effectively derived from the Gandhara
culture by the bend in the Indus river, rather than directly from

Buddhism reached the pastures of Tibet at a rather later period,

not developing fully until the seventh century. Along the way it
developed under many different influences, before reaching
central China. This is displayed very clearly in the artwork, where
many of the cave paintings show people with clearly different
ethnic backgrounds, rather than the expected Cental and East
Asian peoples.

The greatest flux of Buddhism into China occurred during the

Northern Wei dynasty, in the fourth and fifth centuries A.D. This
was at a time when China was divided into several different
kingdoms, and the Northern Wei dynasty had its capital in
Datong in present day Shanxi province. The rulers encouraged the
development of Buddhism, and more missions were sent towards

The new religion spread slowly eastwards, through the oases

surrounding the Taklimakan, encouraged by an increasing number
of merchants, missionaries and pilgrims. Many of the local
peoples, the Huihe included, adopted Buddhism as their own

Faxian, a pilgrim from China, records the religious life in the

Kingdoms of Khotan and Kashgar in 399 A.D. in great detail. He
describes the large number of monasteries that had been built,
and a large Buddhist festival that was held while he was there.
Some devotees were sufficiently inspired by the new ideas that
they headed off in search of the source, towards Gandhara and
India; others started to build monasteries, grottos and stupas.

The development of the grotto is particularly interesting; the

edges of the Taklimakan hide some of the best examples in the
world. The hills surrounding the desert are mostly of sandstone,
with any streams or rivers carving cliffs that can be relatively
easily dug into; there was also no shortage of funds for the work,
particularly from wealthy merchants, anxious to invoke
protection or give thanks for a safe desert crossing.

Gifts and donations of this kind were seen as an act of merit,

which might enable the donor to escape rebirth into this world.
In many of the murals, the donors themselves are depicted, often
in pious attitude. This explains why the Mogao grottos contain
some of the best examples of Buddhist artwork; Dunhuang is the
starting point for the most difficult section of the Taklimakan

The grottos were mostly started at about the same period, and
coincided with the beginning of the Northern Wei Dynasty. There
are a large cluster in the Kuqa region, the best examples being the
Kyzil grottos; similarly there are clusters close to Gaochang, the
largest being the Bezeklik grottos. Probably the best known ones
are the Mogao grottos at Dunhuang, at the eastern end of the
Taklimakan. It is here that the greatest number, and some of the
best examples, are to be found. More is known about the origins
of these, too, as large quantities of ancient documents have been
found. These are on a wide range of subjects, and include a large
number of Buddhist scriptures in Chinese, Sanskrit, Tibetan, Uygur
and other languages, some still unknown. There are documents
from the other faiths that developed in the area, and also some
official documents and letters that reveal a lot about the system
of government at the time.

The grotto building was not confined to the Taklimakan; there is

a large cluster at Bamiyan in the Hindu Kush, in present-day
Afghanistan. It is here that the second largest sculpture of Buddha
in the world can be found, at 55 metres high.

For the archaeologist these grottos are particularly valuable

sources of information about the Silk Road. Along with the
images of Buddhas and Boddhisatvas, there are scenes of the
everyday life of the people at the time. Scenes of celebration and
dancing give an insight into local customs and costume. The
influences of the Silk Road traffic are therefore quite clear in the
mix of cultures that appears on these murals at different dates.

In particular, the development of Buddhism from the

Indian/Gandharan style to a more individual faith is evident on
studying the murals from different eras in any of the grotto
clusters. Those from the Gandharan school have more classical
features, with wavy hair and a sharper brow; they tend to be
dressed in toga-like robes rather than a loin cloth. Those of the
Northern Wei have a more Indian appearance, with narrower
faces, stretched ear-lobes, and a more serene aura. By the Tang
dynasty, when Buddhism was well developed in China, many of
the statues and murals show much plumper, more rounded and
amiable looking figures. By the Tang dynasty, the Apsara (flying
deity, similar to an angel in Christianity) was a popular subject for
the artists.

It is also interesting to trace the changes in styles along the length

of the route, from Kuqa in the west, via the Turfan area and
Dunhuang, to the Maijishan grottos about 350 kilometres from
Xian, and then as far into China as Datong.

The Northern Wei dynasty, that is perhaps the most responsible

for the spread of Buddhism in China, started the construction of
the Yungang grottos in northern Shanxi province. When the
capital of the Northern Wei was transferred to Luoyang, the
artists and masons started again from scratch, building the
Longmen grottos. These two more ‘Chinese' grottos emphasised
carving and statuary rather than the delicate murals of the

Taklimakan regions, and the figures are quite impressive in their

size; the largest figure at Yungang measures more than 17 metres
in height, second only in China to the great Leshan Buddha in
Sichuan, which was constructed in the early 8th Century. The
figures are mostly depicted in the ‘reassurance' pose, with right
hand raised, as an apology to the adherents of the Buddhist faith
for the period of persecution that had occurred during the early
Northern Wei Dynasty before construction was started.

The Buddhist faith gave birth to a number of different sects in

Central Asia. Of these, the ‘Pure Land' and ‘Chan' (Zen) sects were
particularly strong, and were even taken beyond China; they are
both still flourishing in Japan.

The height of the importance of the Silk Road was during the
Tang dynasty, with relative internal stability in China after the
divisions of the earlier dynasties since the Han. The individual
states has mostly been assimilated, and the threats from
marauding peoples was rather less.

During this period, in the seventh century, the Chinese traveller

Xuan Zhuang crossed the region on his way to obtain Buddhist
scriptures from India. He followed the northern branch round the
Taklimakan on his outward journey, and the southern route on
his return; he carefully recorded the cultures and styles of
Buddhism along the way. On his return to the Tang capital at
Changan, he was permitted to build the ‘Great Goose Pagoda' in
the southern half of the city, to house the more than 600
scriptures that he had brought back from India. He is still seen by
the Chinese as an important influence in the development of
Buddhism in China, and his travels were dramatised in the
popular classic ‘Tales of a Journey to the West'. (Source:

Thus, the investigator into the Buddha’s trail can appreciate the
influences that Buddhism had on the different cultures in Asia and
now worldwide. It was a case of assimilation and being
assimilated by and into many various cultures, till Buddhism is
almost unrecognised from the early period of the Theras.

HE TIPITAKA - Original Words
Three months after the demise of the Lord Buddha in 544
B.C., an initial Council was convened to confirm and
preserve the authenticity of His teachings. The members forming
this initial First Council were all arahants who collectively confirm
the authenticity of the Lord Buddha’s teachings. Five other
Councils followed in the course of the next two thousand years.
These teachings were enshrined in a collection known as the
Tipitaka [In the Pali language, “ti” means three and “pitaka” means
basket; 'tipitaka', literally means; the three baskets or collections].

The Tipitaka is divided into three parts.

1. The first part is known as the Vinaya

Vinaya Pitaka and comprises
rules which the Lord Buddha laid down for monks and nuns.
2. The second part is the Sutta Pitaka, comprising the Discourses.
3. The third part is known as the Abhidhamma Pitaka and
comprises the psycho-
psycho-ethical teachings of the Buddha.

The First, Second and Third Great Councils were convened by

learned and knowledgeable monks in India between 544 B.C.
and 308 B.C., and the Tipitaka texts were authenticated,
confirmed and accepted as the true teachings of the Buddha. All
the texts were chanted orally to confirm their pristine originality.

The Tipitaka was again repeated; its authenticity re-confirmed

and written down on palm-leaves during the Fourth Great
Council which was convened in Sri Lanka in 94 B.C.

At the Fifth Great Council which was convened in Mandalay in

1871, the Tipitaka texts were inscribed on 729 stone slabs and
housed in a pagoda there.

In 1954 which marked the 2500 years of the Buddha Sasana, the
Sixth Great Council was convened inside the Mahapasana Cave,
Kaba Aye Hillock, Yangon. Bhikkhus from five Theravada
Buddhist countries; Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and
Cambodia, took two years to recite and verify the Tipitaka texts.
The purified texts were later printed into book form.

The Tipitaka texts also known as the Pali Canon was written
down 2,000 years ago, and before that it had been transmitted
strictly by a firm and consistent oral tradition. Qualified monks
would wake up in the early morning and assemble in a hall to
recite the discourses. They would form small groups and recite in
concert to ensure that the discourses were correctly memorised. If
there were any ambiguities or doubts, the Elders would be
consulted for clarification and affirmation.

Groups of monks would recite to other groups of monks in the

same way, and this was a requirement for every monk in the
Sangha. After the Pali Canon was finally written down, it was
further reaffirmed and re-examined in the Councils led by Great
Arahants and learned monks, thus ensuring its unquestioned
authenticity. The teachings of the Buddha were handed down
from teacher to pupil, by word of mouth and later published in
books at subsequent Councils.

Doubts about the reliability of oral traditions will always arise, in

the belief that in such traditions; additions, omissions and
distortions are unavoidable. However, under the conditions
mentioned such errors are rare, as those who had learnt the
teachings by heart and kept them in their memory were not just a
few, but thousands upon thousands and they were dedicated in
their earnestness to upkeep the purity and authenticity of the
texts in their care. Even if changes in the texts were to be made,
these would have had to have the approval of all the other
participating monks who too were so dedicated and conversant
with the texts. Thus under such mindful and earnestness, errors if
at all were kept to a minimum.

Furthermore, those who hold the teachings in memory had too

great a respect for the Buddha and his teachings to make addition
and so on. [Ref: The late Venerable U Silananda, who held a
prominent position in the Sixth Buddhist Council as the chief
compiler of the comprehensive Pali-Burmese Dictionary and as
one of the final editors of the Pali Texts, the Commentaries, Sub-
commentaries and other works.]

It is known, that whenever the Buddha gave a discourse to His

ordained disciples or lay-followers or prescribed a monastic rule
in the course of His forty-five year ministry He would punctuate
important points with repetitive phrases for reason of memorising
them, and those of His devoted and learned monks, then present
would immediately commit His teachings word for word to
memory. Thus the Buddha's words were preserved accurately and
were in due course passed orally from teacher to pupil. Some of
the monks who had heard the Buddha were Arahants, and so by
definition, 'pure ones' free from passion, ill-will and delusion and
therefore, was without doubt capable of retaining, perfectly the
Buddha's words. Thus they ensured that the Buddha's teachings
would be preserved faithfully for posterity. Even those devoted
monks who had not yet attained Arahant status but had reached
the first three stages of sainthood and had powerful, retentive
memories could also call to mind word for word what the
Buddha had preached and so could be worthy custodians of the
Buddha's teachings.

One such monk was Ananda, the attendant and constant

companion during the last twenty-five years of the Buddha’s life.
Ananda was intelligent and gifted with total recall whatever he
had heard, and it was his express wish that the Buddha relate
those discourses to him when he, Ananda was not present at the
time of the discourse and he too committed to memory word for
word all the Buddha's discourses. The combined efforts of these
arahants, gifted and devoted monks made it possible for the
Dhamma and Vinaya, as taught by the Buddha to be preserved in
its original state till the present time.

The Pali Tipitaka and its allied literature exist as a result of the
Buddha's discovery of the noble and liberating path of the
Dhamma. This path leads all those who follow it to a peaceful
and pure existence now and in future existences. Indeed, in this
day and age we are fortunate to have the authentic teachings of
the Buddha preserved for future generations through the
conscientious and concerted efforts of His ordained disciples
down through the ages.

The Buddha had said to His disciples that when He was no longer
amongst them, it was essential that the community of monks, the
Sangha, should come together for the purpose of collectively
reciting the Dhamma, precisely as He had taught it.

The teachings contained in the Tipitaka are also known as the

Doctrine of the Elders [Theravada]. These discourses number
several hundred and have always been recited word for word
ever since the First Council was convened. Subsequently, more
Councils have been called for a number of reasons but at every
one of them the entire body of the Buddha's teaching has always
been recited by the Sangha participants, in concert and word for

These collective recitations which were performed by the monks

at all these Dhamma Councils are known as the 'Dhamma
Sangitis,' the Dhamma Recitations. They are so designated because
of the precedent set at the First Council, when all the Teachings
were recited first by an Elder of the Sangha and then recited once
again in chorus by all of the monks attending the assembly. The
texts were judged to have been authentic, when and only when,
it had been approved unanimously by the members of the

Constituent of Ti-
Ti-Pitaka (Vinaya
(Vinaya Pitaka)
The Vinaya Pitaka deals mainly with the rules and regulations of
the Order of Bhikkhus (monks) and Bhikkhunis (nuns).

For nearly twenty years after the Enlightenment of the Buddha,

no definite rules were laid down for control and discipline of the
Sangha (Order or Community of monks). Subsequently as
occasion arose, the Buddha promulgated rules for the future
discipline of the Sangha.

When the Buddha first established the Sangha, the community

initially lived in harmony without any codified rules of conduct.
As the Sangha gradually grew in number and evolved into a more
complex society, occasions inevitably arose when a member
would act in an unskillful way.

Whenever one of these cases was brought to the Buddha's

attention, He would lay down a rule establishing a suitable
remedy for the offence, as a deterrent to future misconduct. The
Buddha's standard reprimand was itself a powerful corrective:

“It is not fit, foolish man, it is not becoming, it is not proper,

it is unworthy of a recluse, it is not lawful, it ought not to be
done. How could you, foolish man, having gone forth under
this Dhamma and Discipline which are well- well-taught, [commit
such and such offense]? It is not, foolish man, for the benefit
of un-
un-believers, nor for the increase in the number of
believers, but, foolish man, it is to the detriment of both
unbelievers and believers, and it causes wavering in some”.
(The Book of the Discipline, Part I, by I.B. Horner (London: Pali Text Society,
1982), pp. 36-37).

The monastic tradition and the rules upon which it is built are
sometimes naively criticised as irrelevant to the "modern" practice
of Buddhism. Some see the Vinaya as a throwback to an archaic
patriarchy, based on a hodge-podge of ancient rules and customs;
quaint cultural relics that only obscure the essence of "true"
monastic practice. This misguided view overlooks one crucial fact;
it is thanks to the unbroken lineage of monastics who have
consistently upheld and protected the rules of the Vinaya for
almost 2,600 years that we find ourselves today with the luxury
of receiving the priceless teachings of the Dhamma. Were it not
for the Vinaya, and for those who continue to keep it alive to this
day, there would be no Buddha’s Dhamma.

It helps to keep in mind that the name the Buddha gave to the
spiritual path he taught was "Dhamma-Vinaya"; the Doctrine
(Dhamma) and the Discipline (Vinaya), suggesting an integrated
body of wisdom and ethical training.

The Vinaya is thus an indispensable facet and foundation of all

the Buddha's teachings, inseparable from the Dhamma, and
worthy of study by all followers, lay and ordained, alike.

Lay practitioners will find in the Vinaya Pitaka many valuable

lessons concerning human nature, guidance on how to establish
and maintain a harmonious community or organisation, and
many profound teachings of the Dhamma itself. But its greatest
value, perhaps, lies in its power to inspire the layperson to
consider the extraordinary possibilities presented by a life of true
renunciation, a life lived fully in tune with the Dhamma (John T.
Bullitt. Access to Insight)

Reasons for the promulgated of rules, their various implications

and specific ceremonies of the Sangha are fully described in the
Vinaya Pitaka. The history of the gradual development of the
present Sasana from its very inception, a brief account of the life
and ministry of the Buddha and details of three Great Councils
are some other relevant contents of the Vinaya Pitaka.

Indirectly it reveals useful information about ancient history,

Indian customs, ancient arts and sciences. One who reads the
Vinaya Pitaka cannot but be impressed by the democratic
constitution of the Sangha, their holding of possessions in
common, the exceptionally high moral standard of the bhikkhus,
and the unsurpassed administrative abilities of the Buddha.

The Vinaya Pitaka consists of the following five books:

1. Parajika Pali (Major Offences)
2. Pacittiya Pali (Minor Offences)
3. Mahavagga Pali (Greater Section)
4. Cullavagga Pali (Lesser Section)
5. Parivara Pali (Epitome of the Vinaya)

Sutta Pitaka
The Sutta (Suttanta) Pitaka consists chiefly of instructive discourses
delivered by the Buddha to both the Sangha and the laity on
various occasions. A few discourses, expounded by disciples such
as the Venerable Sariputta, Moggallana, and Ananda, are
incorporated and are accorded as much veneration as the Word
of the Buddha Himself, since they were approved by Him.

Most of the sermons were intended mainly for the benefit of

bhikkhus, and they deal with the Holy Life and the exposition of
the Doctrine. There are several other discourses which deal with
both the material and the moral progress of His lay-followers.
The Sigalovada Sutta, for instance, deals mainly with the duties of
a layman. There are also a few interesting talks given to children.

The Sutta Pitaka may be compared to a book of prescriptions,

since the discourses were expounded on diverse occasions to suit
the temperaments of various persons. There may be seemingly
contradictory statements, but they should not be misconstrued as
they were uttered by the Buddha to suit a particular purpose; for
instance, to the self same question He would maintain silence,
when the inquirer was merely foolishly inquisitive, or give a
detailed reply when He knew the inquirer to be an earnest seeker
after the Truth.

The Sutta Pitaka consists of the following five Nikayas


1. Digha Nikaya (Collection of Long Discourses)

This Collection in the Sutta Pitaka, named Digha (Long) Nikaya as
it is made up of thirty-four (34) long discourses of the Buddha, is
divided into three divisions:
(a) Silakkhandha Vagga, Division Concerning Morality
(b) Maha Vagga, the Large Division
(c) Pathika Vagga, the Division beginning with the discourse on
Pathika, the Naked Ascetic.

2. Majjhima Nikaya (Collection of Middle-

Middle-length Discourses)
This collection of medium length discourses is made up of one
hundred and fifty two (152) suttas in three books known as
The first book, Mulapannasa, deals with the first fifty suttas in five
The second book, Majjhimapannasa consists of the second fifty
suttas in five vaggas too; and
The third book, Uparipannasa, deals with the last fifty two suttas
in five vaggas.

The suttas in this Nikaya throw much light on the social ideas and
institutions of those days, and also provide general information
on the economic and political life.

3. Samyutta Nikaya (Collection of Kindred Sayings)

This Collection of Discourses in the Sutta Pitaka known as
Samyutta Nikaya has 7762 suttas of varied length, generally
short, arranged in a special order according to subject matter into
five major divisions:

(a) Sagatha Vagga,

(b) Nidana Vagga,
(c) Khandha Vagga,
(d) Salayatana Vagga and
(e) Maha Vagga.

Each major vagga is divided into fifty six groups known as

samyuttas; related subjects grouped together. The samyuttas are
named after the subjects they deal with, for example, Bojjhanga
Samyutta on the Seven Factors of Enlightenment, or after some
principal personalities such as the Venerable Sariputta, King
Pasenadi of Kosala, or Sakka. Kosala Samyutta is a group of
discourses concerning King Pasenadi of Kosala, and Devata
Samyutta deals with devas like Sakka, Indra, Brahma, etc.

Each samyutta is further divided into sections which are made up

of' individual suttas. Thus the well-known Dhammacakkap-
pavattana Sutta is the first discourse (sutta) in the second section
of Sacca Samyutta which comes under the Mahavagga division of
Samyutta Nikaya.

4. Anguttara Nikaya (Collection of Gradual Sayings)

This Collection of Discourses, Anguttara Nikaya, containing 9,557
short suttas is divided into eleven divisions known as nipatas.

Each nipata is divided again into groups called vaggas which

usually contain ten suttas. The discourses are arranged in
progressive numerical order, each nipata containing suttas with
items of dhamma, beginning with one item and moving up by

units of one till there are eleven items of dhamma in each sutta of
the last nipata. Hence the name Anguttara meaning 'increasing by
one item'.

The first nipata, Ekaka Nipata, provides in each sutta single items
dhamma called the Ones;
the second nipata, Duka Nipata, contains in each sutta two items
of dhamma called the Twos, and
the last nipata, Ekadasaka Nipata, is made up of suttas with
eleven items of dhamma in each, called the Elevens.

Anguttara Nikaya constitutes an important source book on

psychology and ethics, which provides an enumerated summary
of all the essential features concerning the theory and practice of
the Dhamma.

A unique chapter entitled Etadagga Vagga of Ekaka Nipata

enumerates the names of the foremost disciples amongst the
bhikkhus, bhikkhunis, upasakas, upasikas, who had achieved pre-
eminence in one sphere of attainment or meritorious activity, e.g.
the Venerable Sariputta in Intuitive Wisdom and Knowledge
(Panna); the Venerable Maha Moggallana in supernormal powers
(Iddhi); Bhikkhuni Khema in Panna, Bhikkhuni Uppalavanna in
Iddhi; the Upasaka Anathapindika and the Upasika Visakha in
alms-giving (Dana); and so on.

5. Khuddaka Nikaya (Smaller Collection)

Of the five Nikayas, Khuddaka Nikaya contains the largest
number of treatises (as listed below) and the most numerous
categories of Dhamma. Although the word "Khuddaka" literally
means "minor" or "small", the actual content of this collection can
by no means be regarded as minor.

The miscellaneous nature of this collection, containing not only

the discourses by the Buddha but compilations of brief doctrinal
notes mostly in verse, accounts of personal struggles and
achievements by theras and theris also in verse, the birth stories,
the history of the Buddha etc., may account for its title.

This fifth is subdivided into fifteen books:

1. Khuddaka Patha (Shorter Texts)
2. Dhammapada (The Way of Truth)
3. Udana (Paeans of Joy)
4. Itivuttaka ("Thus said" Discourses)
5. Sutta Nipata (Collected Discourses)
6. Vimana Vatthu (Stories of Celestial Mansions)
7. Peta Vatthu (Stories of Peta)
8. Theragatha (Psalms of the Brethren)
9. Therigatha (Psalms of the Sisters)
10. Jataka (Birth Stories of the Bodhisatta)
11. Niddesa (Expositions)
12. Patisambhida (Book on Analytical Knowledge)
13. Apadana (Lives of Arahants)
14. Buddhavamsa (History of the Buddha)
15. Cariya Pitaka (Modes of Conduct)
16. Netti
17. Petakopadesa
18. Milinda panha

Abhidhamma Pitaka
Abhidhamma, the Higher Doctrine of the Buddha, is the third
great division of the Pitaka. It is a huge collection of
systematically arranged, tabulated and classified doctrines of the
Buddha, representing the quintessence of his Teaching. It is a most
profound philosophy in contrast to the simpler discourses in the
Sutta Pitaka. Abhidhamma.

According to some scholars Abhidhamma is not a teaching of the

Buddha, but is a later elaboration of scholastic monks. Tradition,
however, attributes the nucleus of the Abhidhamma to the
Buddha Himself.

Whoever the great author or authors may have been, it has to be

admitted that the Abhidhamma must be the product of an
intellectual genius comparable only to the Buddha. This is evident
from the intricate and subtle description in detail of the various
causal relations.

To the wise truth-seekers, Abhidhamma is an indispensable guide

and an intellectual treat. Here is found food for thought to
original thinkers and to earnest students who wish to develop
higher knowledge. It is not a subject of fleeting interest designed
for the superficial reader.

Modern Psychology, limited as it is, comes within the scope of

Abhidhamma inasmuch as it deals with mind, thoughts, thought-
processes, and mental properties; but it does not admit of a
psyche or a soul. It teaches a psychology without a psyche.

Consciousness (Citta) is defined. Thoughts are analysed and

classified chiefly from an ethical standpoint. All mental properties
(Cetasika) are enumerated. The composition of each type of
consciousness is set forth in detail. How thoughts arise is minutely

Matter is summarily discussed, but it has not been described for

physicists. Fundamental units of matter, material properties,
source of matter, relationship of mind and matter are explained.
Abhidhamma does not attempt to give a systematised knowledge
of mind and matter. It investigates these two composite factors of
the so-called being, to help the understanding of things as they
truly are. Abhidhamma means Higher Teaching or Special
Teaching; it is unique in its abstruseness, analytical approach,
immensity of scope and conduciveness to one's liberation.

The Buddha Dhamma has only one taste, the taste of liberation;
in the Suttanta discourses, the Buddha takes into consideration the
intellectual level of his audience, and their attainments in parami.
He therefore teaches the Dhamma in conventional terms (vohara
vacana), making references to persons and objects as I, we, he,
she, men, woman, cow, tree, etc.

In the Abhidhamma, the Buddha makes no such concessions; he

treats the Dhamma entirely in terms of the ultimate reality
(paramattha sacca). He analyses every phenomenon into its
ultimate constituents. All relative concepts such as man,
mountain, etc. are reduced to their ultimate elements which are

then precisely defined, classified and systematically arranged. A

complete description of things requires detailing of how each
component part stands in relation to other component parts. This
entails a synthetical approach to study the interrelationship
between constituent parts and how they are related to other
internal or external factors.

Thus the Abhidhamma approach covers a wide field of study,

consisting of analytical and synthetical methods of investigation,
describing and defining minutely the constituent parts of
aggregates, classifying them under well-ordered heads and well-
arranged systems and finally setting out conditions in which they
are related to each other. Such a large scope of intellectual
endeavour needs to be encompassed in a voluminous and
classified compilation. Hence the Abhidhamma Pitaka is made up
of seven massive treatises, namely;

(i) Dhammasangani (Classification of Dhamma), containing

detailed enumeration of all phenomena with an analysis of
consciousness (citta) and its concomitant mental factors
(ii) Vibhanga (Divisions), consisting of eighteen separate
sections on analysis of phenomena quite distinct from that
of Dhammasangani;
(iii) Dhatukatha (Discourse on Elements), a small treatise
written in the form of a catechism, discussing all
phenomena of existence with reference to three categories,
khandha, ayatana and datu
(iv) Puggala Pannatti (The Book on Individuals), a small treatise
giving a description of various types of individuals
according to the stage of their achievement along the Path;
(v) Kathavatthu (Points of Controversy), a compilation by the
Venerable Moggaliputta, the presiding thera of the third
Great Synod in which he discusses and refutes doctrines of
other schools in order to uproot all points of controversy
on the Buddha dhamma;
(vi) Yamaka (The Book of Pairs), regarded as a treatise on
applied logic in which analytical procedure is arranged in

(vii) Patthana (The Book of Causal Relations), a gigantic treatise

which together with Dhammasangani, the first book,
constitutes the quintessence of the Abhidhamma Pitaka. It is
a minutely detailed study of the doctrine of conditionality,
based on twenty four paccayas, conditions or relations.

onventional Truth (Sammuti Sacca) and
Ultimate Truth (Paramattha
(Paramattha Sacca).
Two kinds of Truth are recognised in the Abhidhamma
according to which only four categories of things, namely: Mind
(consciousness), Mental Concomitants, Materiality and Nibbana
are classed as the Ultimate Truth; all the rest are regarded as
apparent truth. When we use such expression as 'I', 'you', 'man',
'woman', 'person', 'individual', we are speaking about things
which do not exist in reality. By using such expressions about
things which exist only in designation, we are not telling a lie; we
are merely speaking an apparent truth, making use of
conventional language, without which no communication will be

But the Ultimate Truth is that there is no 'person', 'individual' or 'I'

in reality. There exist only khandhas made up of corporeality,
mind (consciousness) and mental concomitants. These are real in
that they are not just designations, they actually exist in us or
around us.

It is known, that
whenever the Buddha
gave a discourse to his
ordained disciples or
lay-followers or when
he prescribes a monastic
rule in the course of his
forty-five years, those of
his devoted and learned
bhikkhus, then present
would immediately commit his teachings word for word to
memory. Thus the Buddha's Words were preserved accurately
and were in due course passed down orally from teacher to

pupil. Some of the bhikkhus who had heard the Buddha, in

person were arahants, and so by definition, 'pure ones' free from
passion, ill-will and delusion and therefore, without doubt
capable of retaining, perfectly the Buddha's Words.

Thus, this ensured that the Buddha's teachings would be

preserved faithfully for posterity. Even those devoted bhikkhus
who had not yet attained arahantship but had reached the first
three stages of sainthood and had powerful, retentive memories
could also call to mind; word for word what the Buddha had
taught and so could be worthy custodians of the Buddha's
teachings. The combined efforts of these devoted bhikkhus made
it possible for the Dhamma and Vinaya, as taught by the
Buddha to be made available to us in their original pristine form.

The Tipitaka and its allied literature (the commentaries) exist as a

result of the Buddha's discovery of the noble and liberating path
of the pure Dhamma, which exists and have been in existence
whether a Buddha is present or not. Indeed, in this day and age
we are fortunate to have the authentic teachings of the Buddha
preserved for us and for future generations through the
conscientious and concerted efforts of his ordained disciples
through the ages.

The Tipitaka in the Pali, a north Indian dialect is uniquely

Theravada (the word Theravada is a compound of thera and
vada; thera means ‘elder’ and vada signifies ‘speech’, ‘talk’,
‘word’, ‘doctrine’. The word Theravada is frequently translated
into English ‘the Doctrine of the Elders’). These discourses number
several hundred and have always been recited word for word
from the time of the First Council.