The Early Schools of Indian Buddhism Series

in mindfulness •  6 months ago

Buddhist schools at the time of the First ‘Maha-Kasyapa’ Council at Rajagaha.

Part 6

In Part 2 of this series, we looked at the First (and Second) Council of Buddhism, and gave a general overview of: who participated, what was discussed, where it was held, and why it was necessary to convene it in the first place. As was mentioned in Part 2, the growth of Buddha’s entourage also resulted in a larger risk of dissension and disagreement among his followers. The Buddha was well aware of this momentum during his life time, and even more so, the probability of it resulting in a schism after his final Nirvana.

The original name of the Sangha — Sakyaputtiya

Before the general term Sthaviravada (school of the elders) came to be commonly used as to refer to the Buddhist followers, the term Sakyaputtiya was used in the texts. This was the name given to the followers of Buddha, as followers of Sakyamuni:

“You, Vasettha, who, differing all in the family you were born in, in your given name, in your clan (gotra) and family, have gone forth from home into the wandering life, may be asked: Who are you? Then do you reply: We are wanderers who follow him of the sons of the Sakyans (sakyaputtiya). He, Vasettha, whose confidence in the Buddha is settled, rooted, established and firm, a confidence not to be dragged down by a recluse or brahmin, by a deva or Mara the Evil One or Brahma or anyone in the world, well may he say: I am a veritable son of the Exalted One, born from his mouth (by having heard his teachings), born of the teachings (that are the truth) (Dhamma), defined by the teachings, and receiver of the transmitted teachings. And why? Because, Vasettha, these are names tantamount to Buddha: Being the embodiment of the teachings, and again, embodying the highest attainable, and again, one having become the teachings, and again, one having become the highest attainable.” — Digha Nikaya I.84

The Sakyans are identified as a tribe in North India, to which the Buddha belonged. The capital city of their region was Kapilavatthu. The Sakyans consisted of various different clans, of which the Buddha belonged to the Gotama clan (gotama-gotta). The Sakyans had no king, instead, a republican form of government ruled, with an elected leader chosen by the various clans.

The first Buddhist Council was held at Rajagaha, right after the Buddha’s final Nirvana. Although technically there was no schism during the first Buddhist Council, and only one ‘school’ existed, as far as we can consider it a school, there were growing concerns among Buddha’s followers about the consistency of how rules were followed and how the teachings were to be remembered and recited.

Some examples of disagreement and possible dissension when the Buddha was alive up until the First Council after his death.

1. Devadatta’s attempts to kill the Buddha and the pre-schism five-hundred Vajjiputtaka followers

Devadata was the son of the maternal uncle of the Buddha, and was among the first group of followers of the Buddha. He started out enjoying great honor among his followers, but later suspicion was raised of his evil wishes and intentions. He had the idea of taking Buddha’s place as the leader of the Buddhist order, so he went to the Buddha and suggested that the leadership of the Order should be handed over to him, because of the Buddha’s old age. After this request was vehemently denied, Devadatta had the plan to kill the Buddha, using royal archers from king Ajatasattu. This attempt failed, as all archers were converted to Buddhism by the Buddha’s powers. Devadatta second attempt to kill the Buddha, was by using a large boulder rock, and this attempt too failed, although he was able to cause some injury through a splinter that came off the rock. Devadatta's third attempt on the life of the Buddha was by letting loose a fierce elephant on the road where the Buddha would pass, but this failed as well as the Buddha subdued the elephant through his powers (iddhi).

It is not often mentioned, that even during Buddha’s lifetime, five hundred followers from the Vajji region (vajjiputtaka), seceded from the order, brought about by the bad intentions and plans of Devadatta to cause a schism in the Buddhist order. Devadatta sent five followers to the Buddha, and they asked for the implementation of five rules on all members of the Buddhist order:

(1) that monks should dwell all their lives in the forest.
(2) that they should accept no invitations to meals, but live entirely on alms obtained by begging.
(3) that they should wear only robes made of discarded rags and accept no robes from the laity.
(4) that they should dwell at the foot of a tree and not under a roof.
(5) that they should abstain completely from fish and flesh.

The Buddha replied, that for those who wanted, could follow these rules—except for rule no. 4 during the rainy season—although he refused to make them mandatory. This refusal delighted Devadatta, spreading the deliberately misinformed conclusion, that this proved the Buddha was influenced by luxury and abundance.

Devadatta did not stop there. He was going to be holding a recitation meeting without the Buddha, and had persuaded five hundred of Buddha’s followers from the Vajji region to join him. The Buddha sent the elders Sariputta and Moggallana to bring them back.

2. Subhadda’s idea of relaxing the Vinaya rules

The Vinaya texts give several reasons why the First Council was held, one of them being the account of Subhadda, who had the idea that now that the Buddha had passed away, the monks could relax their rules and not have to live such a strict life with so many rules.

Subhadda was a barber from Atuma, who joined the Buddhist order and disliked all the various Buddhist rules he had to follower. When the Buddha died and the monks were lamenting his death, Subhadda told them to be glad about it: “We are well rid of the great wanderer, we can now do whatever we like.’' The elder Maha Kassapa heard about this, while he was on his way to pay tribute to the Buddha after his final Nirvana, and considered this remark to be of grave concern, which made him decide to hold the First Council after the Buddha's death.

3. The proceedings of the First Council did not pass unanimously

All council members approved both Vinaya and Dhamma recitations, except for two senior followers: Gavampati and Purana. Maha-kassapa had successfully gotten the approval of all the senior followers of the Buddha, but Gavampati remained neutral, as he did not fully accept the proceedings of the Council. Purana did not accept the recitation as the words of the Buddha, and was insisting on including eight additional rules about food into the Vinaya basket. The Vinaya of the Mahisasaka school included these eight rules as valid.

4. The two arguing teachers at Kosambi

At Kosambi, there were two teachers, the first an expert of the teachings (dhammadhara) and the second an expert in the rules of conduct (vinayadhara), both giving instructions in their own expertise to their own group of students. At some point, the first teacher committed a light offense unintentionally, and when pointed out, he showed regret, but this was talked about by the second teacher among his students and lay-followers. The students and lay-followers of the first teacher became offended by this, and it created a divide between the two groups of students, as well as between the two groups of associated lay-followers. The Buddha, who heard about this, became involved, and at first did not succeed in resolving the issue. Interestingly, it was out of sheer disgust that he preferred to retire to the forest, than having to listen to the fruitless arguing by people in this world. Having heard the response from the Buddha about this, the two arguing teachers, their students, and their lay followers came to their senses and settled the dispute themselves.

The Vajjiputtaka Sutta — reciting 250 rules or train yourself in the three higher aims

This sutta is an excellent example of how the Buddha is a master of skillful means, when dealing with complaints from his followers:

A Buddhist follower from Vajji visits the Buddha in Vaisali, and complains that he has to recite over two-hundred and fifty rules twice a month. “I cannot stand such training,” he says. The Buddha then asks him if he can train himself in three higher aims. The monk agrees to do this and is told to develop higher virtue (adhisila), higher mind (adhicitta) and higher wisdom (adhipanna) [of the Arahant]. The Buddhist follower develops these, and gets rid of craving, hatred, and ignorance.

The Kesaputtiya Sutta — A word for the wise

And lastly, a word from the Buddha about reliance on tradition alone, or authority alone, or on logical reasoning alone, on blind reliance on a guru:

“Do not go by oral tradition, by lineage of teaching, by hearsay, by a collection of scriptures, by logical reasoning, by inferential reasoning, by reasoned cogitation, by the acceptance of a view after pondering it, by the seeming competence [of a speaker], or because you think: ‘The ascetic is our guru.’

But when you know for yourselves: ‘These things are unwholesome; these things are blameworthy; these things are censured by the wise; these things, if accepted and undertaken, lead to harm and suffering,’ then you should abandon them [those things leading to suffering].” — AN I.188

In the next article, the Buddhist schools at the time of the Second Council at Vaisali (and the subsequent Mahasamghika Council) will be discussed.

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Now more than ever, when I look at the history that he has been presenting in the previous post and here, I find trivial elements of Buddhist achievement, and that is why he considers that information throughout history has been distorted, because ordinary people want to earn a title, an honorable mention, to be light...; without any effort.

Follow the five rules you mentioned:

  1. Let the monks live their whole lives in the forest.
  2. That he does not accept invitations to eat, but that they live entirely on alms for begging.
  3. Let them only wear robes made of discarded rags and not accept robes from the laity.
  4. Let them inhabit the cake of a tree and not under a roof.
  5. Abstain completely from fish and meat.

... it's not an easy task, especially in the times we live in today. The same thing happens in religions; everyone wants to earn heaven by beating their breasts. Or as it is found in a biblical passage "faith without works is dead".

In Nietzsche: Thus speaks Zarathustra, German philosopher, I find certain particularities that correlate with the Buddhist essence; in particular, "The Superman", an idea in which to define that it is important to "take God's principles out of the human body" and that, in his opinion, having goodness, or having a belief towards what is called faith or miracles, makes us weak; offering us a path guided by dogmatic uncertainty.


Buddha said he would not support these extreme rules but if one wanted to follow that is okay except for #4, sitting under a tree during the rainy season. Buddha almost died starving his body to find enlightenment. A young girl saw him close to death under a tree and fed him some cows milk, saving his life. Once Buddha regained his health, he came to an understanding that denying and hurting the body hindered the process of enlightenment. Buddha went on to find the Old path discovered by Buddha's of the past.

Sitting under a tree during monsoon season would harm the meditator, so it was forbidden. Buddha would not enforce the rules, they were not mandatory. No matter what you wear, what you eat, dunking yourself in a holy body of water, killing animals for merit to the gods, how much ritual and prayer one will not free one from their conditioning and ignorance, from hatred, anger, and aversion. Buddha wasn't a superman, he was an average human like you and me, he taught we all can leave our self-caused suffering behind.


I am totally with you in affirming that Buddha was not "a superman"; it is the consideration of people that makes men who accomplish something in their lives supermen or idols; just as they worship renowned actors, wealthy politicians, kings and queens. It's like always wanting to look for a north; and they don't realize that happiness is just around the corner.

I think what he is trying to convey is not that he believes in Buddha as a divine being, but in the teachings he has left us.


@sony-albornoz, you hit the nail on the head, or in other words bulls-eye!


This is the reason why today I am your follower. I am very interested in the way you handle the subject and would like to learn more. There is much to be learned from the philosophy of Buddha on the road to happiness.

That would be excellent introduction post about Maha Kashyapa council learning. It has some difficult part for understanding. I try to understand better. However Buddhism religion of no one part of around the world.


History is complicated because there are so many versions to weed through @kingsberry. I think my husband and I have simplified Buddhist history for everyone to enjoy. I like how Gotama Buddha came from a tribe that was a Republic, that makes a lot of sense about how he organized his group of followers.

Hi @reddust this schools survive in this days i mean there is too much history and work and i want to know how about them in this century, or only the legacy of teaching remains?. Regards


@dim753, you will have to be patient, specific modern schools and their teachers and teachings will come later. But I won't go in depth about methods and instructions, I am not a teacher. I am just a curious, crazy chicken...I am too chicken to teach mad humans how to be sane, how to be normal....hahaha

One of my favorite stories I've read regarding Buddhism is of the teacher and his student. The teacher asking him if he's washed his bowls. The meaning, live in the moment, was so profound to me and helped me in life as a father and professional. Great post!


We can see our life as a Buddhist monks begging bowl. We have to eat what is offered....hahaha

Thank you for the lovely story @jcharles

@reddust, You reminded me my past learning through this post. I know about Devadattha character's lot. I know he was goes against Buddha lot of times. But finally he understood what's wrong with him. But he got best solution for Devadatta's life. This teachings given massive opportunities to newbies who want to learn Buddha's historical things. Thanks for whole effort. This is not easier for wrote. Triple gem bless you.




Please follow me and I'll give some instructions for your growth.


i will follow you thank you if you are my friend.


@ammar1, please leave people alone on my blog. First you attack a steemian for copying you and secondly you are begging for help. @madushanka is very kind and polite, you should follow his example. If you need help you can find help here ==> Minnow Support


thanks sir really i no that when big level steemian say any thing for you so you give him our good upvote.or small level steemit say you any thin so you give him red flag or 1 % voted.


Devadattha was one of my first lessons on how Buddha resolved conflict in is the group. My husband found more information and details, I didn't know Devadattha had attacked Buddha three times. I remember Davadattha also shot a swan with an arrow when he and Buddha were kids. Buddha rescued the Swan and Davadattha tried to kill both of them...

Even in Buddhism there is disagreements and arguments. I would never had known. For many of us we think of it as such a forever peaceful religion. Thanks @reddust.


@enjoywithtroy, were there are a group of people, even enlightened ones, there are going to be disagreements. Buddhism and its institutions are not exempt, but Buddhism as teaching can't be used by governments to control people like many other religions. Buddhist teachings are about individual freedom. If you don't believe in what Buddha taught you won't go to hell, you not evil, you are not sinner, an infidel, a pagan and no one is going to kill you for being an unbeliever. Kings had a hard time using the teachings to enforce their rule through force...hahaha

This article summarized everything. You answered a lot of questions. A thank you for quality shares @reddust


The biggest question I had from one of my past articles was about following the Buddha and his teachings blindly. I think the last part of my article answered the issue nicely. Thank you @turkishcrew.

An interesting corpus of work :-)

My first introduction to Dzogchen came via a small book lent to me by a German hermit living in the grounds of a Zen monastery... in Italy! There hang some tales I may share some day.

In our country there is many Buddhist historical place. Some of them were most probably created by Buddha.


Someday I hope I can visit, I love holy places, whether they are Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, or Pagan. Thank you @korshed.

I have to confess, reading your blog has broaden my knowledge about Buddhism, the culture and religions in India, the education in India and the general history of India.

Thanks for educating us.

Do You Belive Buddhism.


I was taught not to believe in anything from just anyone or any book. I was given the advice to investigate the teacher, the teachings and to come and try the instructions out. If the lessons and methods work for me, then I will commit or I can leave. I believe what Gotama Buddha taught works. It is essential for a student to investigate the character of a teacher before committing, it is also crucial for a teacher to examine the student before teaching begins.


Thanks Sir.

I like the idea that you placed at the end of the post in " A Words From the Wise". It is always best practice in life to find answers for ourselves, to avoid following blindly an idea, tradition, or practice and, worse, enforcing it on others.

I find that there are some parallels with Epicureanism. Let me know your opinion.

Muy bueno!

Your post is so helpful about buddhism, do you believe in buddha!?


cheat copying my comment.


Are you crazy ? i even don't see your comment


You See And You Also crazy.



Please stop your flag war... Enough to tell much contents.


Okkk Sir.Sorry


I love your stories.

yea i feel most religious teachings are saying almost the same thing or have the same intentions behind them. as much as i am not so open to religious opinions but from my experience i can say they have the same motives behind them. really great post, thanks for sharing

in the science of tasauf there are also branches of the path. the teachings of this school of tarikat there are differences, such as the Naqsyabandiah line, this tarikat is also divided up to 42 streams, whereas the basic source of the Prophet MUhammad all

I once found an article of basic Buddhist teachings, there mentioned the Buddha is a prophet zulkifli (in Muslim teachings) .. regardless of whether or not their arguments, but between the teachings of Buddhism and Sufi teachings there is strong correlation ..

Very nice blogin post
Thank you so much My Dear steemit friend

Beautiful architecture, a culture that has received a beautiful gift to humanity, gastronomy, religion, culture, architecture, vision ...

One day I will read all your articles :D tipuvote!

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It's a very important educational post for history student.have a many information in this post.

What an idea!!!
So cool!!

Hello @reddust this schools survive in this days i mean there is too much history and work and i want to know how about them in this century, or only the legacy of teaching remains?. Regards

Thank you for again historical post.

This post was very informative. Contained many really critical points that I had no idea about. For example Devdatta's attempts at assassinating Gautam Buddh are quite popular but I had literally no idea that persuaded 500 of Buddha’s followers from the Vajji to join him.

I also found the issue of two arguing teachers at Kaushambhi very interesting (Probably because I have been to Kaushambhi). So I did a little search on this incidence at Ghosita monastery and kept on for some time before I remembered to come back and comment on this great post.

Thanks for sharing this :-)

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