Monday, 28 March 2011

The Bhanaka ( Recitor) Tradition.


Buddhist teachings that were proclaimed as dhamma and Vinaya cover the Buddha’s teachings as they were collected by early disciples. This literature now organized in three baskets is the largest among original religious literatures as we have then today. From the very inception there were different methods to preserve this literature for future. The BhAnaka system represents one such historical incident, which was meant for preserving the teaching.

Even during the time of the Buddha there were monks who were experts on different fields of the teachings. The Vepullasutta of AN says:

Idha bhikkhave bhikkhu ye te bhikkhu bahussutA AgatgamA dhammadharA vinayadharA mAtikadharA te kalena kalaM upasamkamitvA…”

By this advice the Buddha directs junior monks to associate those senior members who are learned those who have come to true religion holders of doctrine holders of discipline and holders of  ( special philosophical ) topics. According to this evidence these senior monks were expert on particular areas of the teachings.

According to the Eleventh chapter of the CullavaggapAli the PaJcasatikakkhandhaka the earliest record in pAli on the first Buddhist councils (paThama dhamma sangIti) Buddhist teachings were classified and entrusted to a number of group headed a well-known senior disciples. Since the entrusting of teaching at first councils those tradition of monks devoted their time and vigor to protect the particular section of teaching which they were inherited with. The methodology they adopted for learned teaching for next generation. This system we named today as BhAnaka tradition.

Later texts give us information about 18 groups of BhAnakas that existed at certain period of time.

1.  ∂IghabhAnka
2.   MajjhimabhAnka
3.  ßaMyuttabhAnka
4.   AnguttarabhAnka
5.   KhuddakabhAnka
6.  PArajikabhAnka
7.  PAcittiyabhAnka
8.  µahAvaggabhAnka
9.   CullavaggabhAnka
10. ParivArabhAnka
11. DhammasanganibhAnka
12. VibhangabhAnka
13. DhAtukathAbhAnka
14. KathAvatthubhAnka
15. YamakabhAnka
16. DhammapadabhAnka
17. JAtakabhAnka
18. PathAnabhAnka

Some names of Bhanakas who preserved Vinaya pitaka are given in the sources. These names of Bhanakas those who protected Vinaya pitaka are:-
1.   Ven. UpAli
2.   Ven. DAsaka
3.   Ven. Sonaka
4.   Ven. Siggava and
5.   Ven. Moggaliputtatissa.

The monks who were recitors of Abhidhamma are;
1.   Ven. Bhaddaji
2.   Ven  Sobhita
3.   Ven. PiyajAli
4.   Ven. PiayapAla
5.   Ven. Piyadassi
6.   Ven. Kosiyaputta
7.   Ven. Siggava
8.   Ven. Sandeha
9.   Ven. Sudatta
10. Ven. Dhammiya
11. Ven. Revata

Those monks were experts in particular texts but it does not mean that they knew only context of that book. While they knew Buddhism in generally they were experts of some particular texts.

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