Monday, 28 March 2011

Influence and Encouragement from the Buddha to Buddhist Councils


In the history of Buddhism the councils are recorded to have been held only after the demise of the Buddha. During the life times of the Buddha no any council were held. In other words the Buddhist councils were convened without the participation of the Buddha. Yet, there are many instructions given by the Buddha encouraging monks to meet and solve the problem in collective effort.

The ∂utiyasaddhammasammosasutta of AN III gives the following activities as effective steps of preserving the dhamma. They are given in verb-form.
1.  PariyApunanti ( repeating studying)
2.  ∂esenti   peaching
3.  VAcenti - learning by hard
4.  ßajjhAyanti - reciting[mostly group]
5.  Vitakenti - investigation
6.  VicArenti - examining
7.  µanasAnupekkhanti - recollecting in the mind

In preaching these seven ways monks should understand that they are not for criticizing other views ( na upArambhAnisamsA) and also it is not for getting rid of other views ( na iti vAdamokkAanisamsA). They must be for the only purpose of learning and preserving the dhamma. Buddhism encourages individual as well as group effort in studying and preserving the dhamma. The collective effort emerged and expanded in the Buddhist time itself. Monks in groups studied and worked to preserve teachings. Such efforts and their results are recorded in discourses such as PAsadikasutta, ßanghItisutta and ∂asuttarasutta. The Buddha emphasized his disciple to be well-versed in meaning (attha) and implied meaning (vyaJjana) of his teachings. For this end the Buddha instructs to follow the above mentioned seven steps.

The PAsadikasutta of DN gives a very significant account as to why and how an account should be convened. After the demise of the ñigaNThanAthaputta the founder of Jainism his disciple began to quarrelling between and among them on theoretical and practical matter of their doctrine. There were heavy fights in which they went against their colleagues very furiously. Their words in disagreement are recorded in sutta as follows:

 “you do not know this philosophy and practice, I know it how you know the true doctrine. You have taken it wrong, you are practicing wrongly. My words are meaningful your words were meaningless. Your first words should come last; your last words should be the first. I can refute your theory. What you hold is utterly wrong.”

In this way, these disciples of ñigaNThanAthaputta disagreed with each other. Their lay supporters were seriously unhappy. And they were no more supportive to join. Having heard this incidents novice Chunda informed Ven. Ānanda and they together reported the matter to the Buddha.

On this occasion the Buddha allowed monks how to conduct council of monks in order to prevent declining of true doctrine and to establish the dhamma correctly for future.

†asmAtiha Cunda ye ve mayA dhammA abhiJJA desitA, tattha sabbeheva sangamma samAgamma atthena atthaM byaJjanena byanjanaM sangAyitabbaM na vivaditabbaM yathayidaM brahmacariyaM addhaniyaM assa ciraTThitikaM

=Therefore, O Cunda! here those definite dhammas which were well know and practiced by me, in them, all themselves having got together well should   recite, and should not argue ( comparing) meaning with meaning, implied meaning with implied meaning. As this noble practice last for a long time.’’

For reciting together at this occasion the Buddha named a specific set of doctrines that is sattatimsabodhipakkhiyadhamma (37 factors of enlightenment).

1.  CattAro satipaTThAna
2.  CattAro sammappadhAna
3.  Cattaro iddhipAda
4.  PaJcindriya
5.  PaJcabAla
6.  ßattabojjhaGga
7.  åriyo aTTthaGgiko maggo

Refer to lesson No. 2.3.5. Four Noble Truths (Cattāri Ariyasaccāni), 37 Factors of Enlightenment (Sattatiµsabodhipakkhiyādhamma) & Supramundane in Nine Ways (Navalokottara Saddhamma)

Lectured on 26.04.2005
PAsadikasutta of DN further presents four method of employing attha and VyaJjana to derive exact meaning.

1.   When a monk presents a certain meaning to dhamma if another disagrees the idea of the later should neither be accepted nor rejected (neva abhinanditabbaM na patikkositabbaM ) it should be further matched and discussed until a proper conclusion is attained. No one idea should suppressed another, always concept should be according to dhamma and vinaya. If the conclusion matches these two that is to be established.
2.   When a monk is preaching if you feel that what he says is wrong you should point out the correct meaning. Here also both parties should act as in the number one.
3.   When a monk is preaching if the listeners get it wrong both of them should act as said above.
4.   If a monk presents the meaning correctly according to dhamma and vinaya it should be agreed by all the others.

This record in PAsadikasutta shows how the Buddha directed to conduct a council without disagreements and debates. The Buddha instructs who act when there are few views on one point.

The ßaGghitisutta of DN is a result of dhamma rehearsal conduct by Ven.  Sariputta according to the instruction given in PAsadikasutta. Concept of dhamma in numeriacal order from one to ten is grouped in this sutta. At the end of every section it is emphasized that monks should not argue on those factors but they should recite them together, when the rehearsal was our the Buddha praised that activity as follows;

ßAdhu sAdhu ßAriputta  sAdhu kho tvaM ßAriputta bhikkhUnam saGgIti pariyayaM abhasi’’

 =Well, well o, sariputta .You said wills the method of rehearsal to monks”

The ∂assutarasutta of DN is also a similar record of a meeting conducted by Ven. ßAriputta. This information show that Buddhist councils were first started at the directed of the Buddha as a measure to protect the purity of the dhamma.

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