The Riddle of the First Buddhist Council - A Retrospection

Biswadeb Mukherjee
visting professor
Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies

中華佛學學報第七期 1994.07 出版

P 452

The problem of the First Council was first raised and discussed in detail by Minayeff in 1887. (1) He thought that the chapter XI of the Cullavagga which contains an account of the First Council is riddled with contradictions, and rejected the episode of chanting of the dharma and vinaya as legend, for it was contradicted by traditions of earlier origin. His view as summarised by Poussin(2) may be stated as follows:

Minayeff puts aside as apocryphal or tendencious the history of the council in its official convocation and in its literary labours. But he retains as history or semi-historic the episodes of Subhadra, the Khuddanukhuddakani sikkhapadani, faults of Ananda, etc. Minayeff comes to this conclusion for he thinks that the account of the chanting of dharma and vinaya suffers from both incoherence and contradiction. He finds it incoherent when the CV speaks of the suggestion of Kassapa to the monks to chant together and next records that the monks request Kassapa to choose competent monks for chanting the dharma and vinaya; or when the CV first puts the decision of the monks to hold the council at Rajagrha and then proceeds to record the same as an official resolution proposed by Kassapa and accepted by the Samgha. On the other hand, Minayeff sees contradiction between the drawing up of a complete canon and the episodes of Khudda nukhuddakani sikkhapadani, faults of A nanda, etc. It is also clear that the legendary account of the chanting of dharma and vinaya is of much later origin while the different episodes which are of historical nature, belong to an earlier tradition.

        (1) D.P. Minayeff published  his work in  Russian in
            1887. This  was  translated  into  French  under
            the  titleRecherch es sur le Bouddhisme in 1894.
            Poussin  gave a  critical  account of  Minayeffs
            thesis  in his  work (see nex note) which I have
            utilised for the article.

        (2) Louis De La Vallee Poussin, The Buddhist Councils
            (K. P.  Bagchi  and  Co,  Calcutta, 1976), p.10,
            Henceforth abbreviated as Councils.

P 453

Oldenberg's Criticism of Minayeff

This view of Minayeff is totally rejected by Oldenberg. (3) He neither finds any incoherence nor contradiction in the account of the Cullavagga. Moreover Oldenberg rightly points out that so far as the official resolution regarding the chanting is concerned, nothing 'can be more probable nor more conformable to the habits made known to us by the literature'. He further states that the 'point of view of Minayeff who claims to recognise in these episodes (and those of the failings of Ananda) an old kernel of authentic tradition (einen guten alten kern guter uberlieferung) and to separate them from the rest of the account due to a much younger time, is illusory'. In fact "Der Culla, wenn er.... die Geschiste von dem Konzil mit dem in Rede stehenden Episoden ausstattete beging damit nicht in mindesten, wie Minayeff will, einen Selbstwiederspruch. "So Oldenberg neither accepts the view that the episodes of Subhadda etc. are historic and earlier in origin than the legendary account of, nor accepts that there is any contradiction between the chanting and the other episodes. This does not mean that Oldenberg believes in the authenticity of the Council. He has other reasons to discard it as a legend.

Oldenberg points out that much of the Cullavagga XI. 1 agrees almost verbatim with certain portions of the Mahaparinibbanasutta (VI.19-20).(4) In order to understand the relationship between the Cullavagga and the Mahaparinibbanasutta we will give below a synopsis of the Cullavagga XI. 1:(5)

'Now the venerable Mahakassapa said to the monks that one day he was travelling from Pava to Kusinara with about five hundred monks. Along the road there came an Ajivika monk who informed Mahakassapa and other monks about the death of the Buddha. The faithful but imperfect monks abandoned themselves to grief, but those who were

        (3) Ibid, p.10.

        (4) The Mahaparinibbanasutta (PTS,  London,  1982),
            VI.  19 ∼ 20   ( abbreviated  as  MPS ).   Also
            see,  Dialogues of the  Buddha, Part II, pp. 73ff
            (PTS, London, 1977).

        (5)Cullavagga XI. 1 (abbreviated as CV ).

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already perfect told that all things are impermanent. Kassapa also reminded the grieving monks that it was in the nature of things that one had to be separated from the near and dear ones. Among the monks there was an old monk called Subhadda who rejoiced at the news of the death of the Master and told: "Enough 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 Cullavagga does not record the reaction of Kassapa to the statement of Subhadda. After narrating this incident Kassapa simply told the monks: "Come, my bretheren, let us chant together the dharma and vinaya before the non-dhamma spread and the dhamma be put aside." Then the Cullavagga goes on to narrate how the formal resolution to chant was adopted, the monks selected and the place for chanting decided upon.

It is to be noted that the account about the formal resolution etc., are not recorded in the MPS. The MPS in fact does not contain the slightest hint as to the chanting of the dhamma and vinaya. Otherwise the two texts agree with each other verbatim, and Oldenberg is of the opinion that the Cullavagga copied this part of the narraration from the MPS. As the MPS does not breath a single word about the chanting, Oldenberg came to the conclusion that all the incidents connected with the Council (viz. Kassapa's proposal to chant, his selection of the monks, selection of the place for chanting, formal proposal for chanting, and its acceptance by the Samgha, the chanting of the dhamma and vinaya etc. ) and mentioned in the Cullavagga but omitted in the MPS are nothing but fiction. And this elaborate fiction, according to Oldenberg, was concocted in immitation of the Second Buddhist Council which is historical. (6)It is, however, not properly explained by Oldenberg why the Cullavagga would have to copy the. MPS or to feel inclined to creat such a fiction in immitation of the Second Council. Oldenberg is equally determined to deny the historical nature of even those

        (6) Poussin, Councils, p.10.

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incidents which are not inseparably connected with the chanting of dhamma and vinaya. For example, Oldenberg also regarded the episodes of Channa and the khuddanukhuddakani sikkhapadani as legends. "The hypothesis forces itself upon us", says Oldenberg "that the redactor of our Chapter of the Cullava gga spoke of these things (i.e. stories of Channa etc. ) because the MPS has spoken of them." (7) "Buddha has given orders to be executed after his death: ought not one, when one had to speak of what had happened after the death of the Buddha, to explain how these orders have been executed? The tradition of the MPS speaks in the sense which we know of the khuddanukhuddakani sikkhapadani; on the other hand the Buddhists did not know that the community had suppressed any of the intended rules. Hence what is more simple than to suppose that the community had resolved to keep all the established rules? " (8)

Thus according to Oldenberg the redactors of the Cullavagga were familiar with the account of the MPS regarding the khuddanukhuddakani sikkhapadani and the punishment of the Channa, but were not aware whether theinstructions of the Buddha had already been carried out or not. So they imagined fitting sequels to the account of the MPS and wrote about the actual execution of the orders of the Buddha. Oldenberg is also sceptical about the historical nature of the episode of the faults of Ananda which is not connected with the chanting directly.

Poussin has excellently summarised the opinion of Oldenberg in the following way:(9) "Wishing to set forth the primitive compilation of scriptures, postulated by orthodoxy, the compiler of Cullavagga has naturally brought forward Kassapa, A nanda and Upali. He added the story of Kassapa's journey and the episode of the lesser precepts, had grouped and developed several other souvenirs relative to this period: almost all were known to him through the MPS. In one word Oldenberg believes that all our chapter of the Culla is a forgery."

Criticism of Oldenberg by Finot and Obermiller

        (7) Poussin, Councils, p.22.

        (8) Poussin, Councils.

        (9) Poussin, Councils, p.12.

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As against Oldenberg's contention that the MPS maintains utter silence concerning the First Council, Finot (10) offers the following arguments. He points out that the chapters XI and XII of the Cullavagga which contain the accounts of the two Councils, have such an abrupt beginning unlike the other chapters of the Cullavagga that they could not have been originally a part of this work. He further points out that the Mahapaninibbanasutta also differs from the other suttas of the Digha Nikaya in the nature of its contents, being more historical in character, and that the Mahaparinibbana sutta and the two chapters (XI, XII) of the Cullavagga are so similar in nature that they must have been originally parts of one and the same work. In support of his view he refers to a work entitled Samyukta-vastu (Nanjio 1121), the Vinaya of the Mulasarvastivadins, which contains the account of both parinirvana and the Councils, and concludes therefrom that the Theravadins too had a work corresponding to the Samyukta-vastu and that it was dismembered at a later date by the ancient editors of the Nikayas and Vinaya. Dr. Obermiller (11) corroborates Finot's contention and gives us in detail the contents of the Vinaya-ksudra ka which roughly correponds to the Cullavagga, and shows that it not only contains the account of the two Councils but also the Mahapaninibbanasutta. He further points out that "the story of the Councils begins just on the same line in which the narrative of the burial of the Buddha finishes, without any indication whatsoever".

In view of these evidences Prof. N. Dutt (12)takes Finot's contention as sound, viz., that the Mahapaninibbanasutta and at least the chapter XI (and not the chapter XII) of the Cullavagga originally formed one treatise, and in the analogy of the Vinayaksudraka it may further be stated that the Mahaparini bbanasutta formed originally the first portion of the chapter XI of the Cullavagga. This takes away the force of Oldenberg's arguments and we may now brush them

        (10) Nalinaksha Dutt, Early Monastic Buddhism  vol.I
             (Calcutta,  1941),  p.337,   Indian  Historical
             Quarterly (Calcutta), VIII, pp. 241∼6.

        (11) N.Dutt, Early Monastic Buddhism vol.I, pp.337∼38;
             Indian Historical Quarterly (Calcutta), vol.VIII,

        (12) N.Dutt, Early Monastic Buddhism vol. I, p.338.

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aside. Poussin(13) also is inclined to support the conclusions of Finot drawn on the basis of his finding of the text of Samyukta-vastu.

Rejection of Finot's View

It is difficult to support the views of Finot and others.Both the Samyukta-vastu and the Vinaya-ksudraka belong to the Mulasarvastivadins. And it is only the Mulasarvastivadins who have joined the MPS and the account of the two Councils into one single text.

This arrangement has not been followed by any other school which arose out of the Sthaviras. The tradition followed by these schools definitely shows that the MPS was regarded as a sutta which was held separate from the account of the First Council. Though the Mahasamghika version of the MPS has not come down to us, it is certain that the Mahasamghikas possessed this sutta. The Mahasamghika Vinaya(13a) refers to this sutta by name and reproduces certain informations mentioned in the available MPS versions belonging to schools which developed out of the Sthaviras. Thus the compilation of the MPS must have been completed before the Sthavira-Mahasamghika split. It is clear that even in this early period the MPS was known as sutta to the Mahasamghikas, and that, according to the Mahasamghika tradition also, it existed separately from the account of the First Council. So it is obvious that the arrangement discusssed by Finot and other scholars is to be taken as a later development peculiar to the Mulasarvastivadins, and can be of no use in determining the arrangement of the Buddhist traditions in the earliest period. This cannot solve the problem raised by Oldenberg due to the silence of the MPS. As for the abrupt beginning of the Cullavagga account it has been shown later that this perception of the abruptness is only due to the misunderstanding of the real nature of this part of the Cullavagga account. There are, however, some objective grounds for rejecting the view of Oldenberg which may now be discussed.

Refutation of Oldenberg's theory

        (13) Poussin, Councils, p.13, note 39, p.11, note 36.

        (13a) T. 22, p.489 C27ff (T. for Taisho ed. of

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The grand edifice of Oldenberg's theory rests on a number of facts and assupmtions. The observations that certain parts of the Cullavagga agrees verbatim with the MPS, and that the MPS does not mention anything about the First Council refer to facts. As for the assumptions which contribute greatly to giving the final shape to the theory of Oldenberg we may note the following:

1)The MPS is earlier in origin than the Cullavagga XI.

2)The compilers of the Cullavagga XI were quite familiar with the MPS and under the influence of the second Buddhist Council copied some portions of the MPS (e. g. the report of Kassapa about Subhadda) as well as elaborated and brought to reasonable completion some episodes mentioned in the MPS (e. g. the episode of Channa etc. ). This suggests a long gap between the completion of the MPS and the compilation of the Cullavagga XI.

3)The MPS would have recorded the traditions connected with the chanting of dharma and vinaya mentioned in the Cullavagga provided these were known to the compiler of the MPS.

4)Such Cullavagga episodes which should have been mentioned by the MPS but find no mention there are to be taken as legends. Accordingly the chanting of the dhanma and vinaya in a council passed over in utter silence by the MPS but given a prominent place in the Cullavagga XI was taken to be a legend by Oldenberg. Similarly all the other events exclusively mentioned in the Cullavagga and inseperably bound up with the chanting also came to regarded as legends by Oldenberg.

5)The compiler of the Cullavagga had to imagine fitting sequels to the episodes of Channa and the khuddanukhuddakani sikkhapadani mentioned in the MPS.

6)Conversely, if an episode is recorded in both the Culla vagga XI and the MPS it should be regarded as authentic. For example, the Buddha's instructions about Channa and the minor rules as well as Kassapa's report to the monks about the Ajivika monk and Subhadda mentioned in both the MPS(14) and the Cullavagga XI (15) have not been marked out as legends by Oldenberg.

        (14) MPS VI, 19∼20.

        (15) CV XI, 1.

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Before we start our examination of the theory propounded by Oldenberg we would like to enumerate the following principles which should guide us in our investigation:

a)Any tradition mentioned not only in the Vinayas of the Buddhist sects which developed out of the Sthaviras, but also in the Mahasamghika Vinaya can be reasonably taken to have originated before the Sthavira-Mahasam ghika schism. Such an early tradition should be regarded as authentic unless there is some strong evidence to the contrary. The rejection of such a tradition without unassailable arguments cannot be justified.

b)On the other hand, if a tradition finds mention only in the canon of the Sthavira sects or of the Mahasamghika, it can be said to have become a part of the canon at the hands of the Sthaviras or the Mahasamghikas, but cannot be taken for granted to have been known to the undivided Buddhist community before the Sthavira-Mahasamghika schism. The mention of a tradition in this stage should not, under normal condition, affect adversely the authenticity of a tradition belonging to the earliest period.

c)According to earliest traceable classification of the Buddhist literature ‘dharma' and 'krtya' belonged to mutually exclusive categories, the former referred to the suttas while the latter dealt with the collection of krtyas or Formal Acts. A tradition belonging to one category did not form a part of another category. (16) The MPS was included in the category of dharma while the Cullavagga is basically a collection of krtyas.(17) The accounts of the chanting of the dharma and vinaya, the discussion of the minor rules etc. are all Formal Acts performed by the Samgha, though in some cases all the steps in the procedure of a fully developed Formal Act are not mentioned. There is no doubt, that if the early Buddhists wanted to group together such events, they could have done so only under the category of 'krtya'.

d)According to the ancient Buddhist law each krtya is to be regarded as

        (16) Biswadeb Mukherjee, The Schismatic Matt ers and the
             Early Buddhist Literature especially, pp.89, 90, 95
             ( Journal of  Research  V.  B.  vol. 1, part I,
             Humanities and Social Sciences, 1977).

        (17) Ibid, p.94.

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separate from or independent of other krtyas, each of them being introduced by a separate proposal and concluded by a particular resolution. So the incidents described in the Culla vagga XI are to be treated as independent Formal Acts performed separately by an identical group of competent monks within the legal boundary of a Samgha. It also follows that to the early Buddhists the Cullavagga XI is neither an account of a Council nor that of a tribunal but represents merely a collection of Formal Acts.

We may start our criticism of Oldinberg's view by pointing out that there is no decisive reason to hold that the MPS is earlier than the Cullavagga XI. It is true that the MPS deals with events that took place before the holding of the First Council. However the fact that the MPS records earlier events does not by itself prove that the MPS was composed at an earlier date. The possibility that the MPS might have been composed at a later date cannot be ignored. The MPS not only describes the last days and the funeral ceremony of the Buddha but also records the distribution of the relics and the construction of the stupas over the relics which certainly took place quite some time after the death of the Buddha. On the other hand the First Council, took place, according to the tradition of the undivided Buddhist community during the first rainy season after the Buddha's Parinirvana. The time gap between these two events is quite short, and it is obvious that the MPS could not have been composed before the First Council or discussed during the Council. In short, the MPS or rather the genuine traditions exclusively recorded in the MPS had not yet become a part of the official canon fixed during the First Council. On the other hand, the Culla vagga XI records different Formal Acts performed during the First Council and so the core of this account must be contemporaneous with the Council.

A careful analysis of the Cullavagga XI will even now reveal to us traces of such traditions which became part of the Buddhist scripture during the time of the First Council and therefore, before the compilation of the MPS. Some of these tradition came to be included in the MPS at a later date. Let us, for example, first discuss that part of the Cullavagga XI where Kassapa is reporting to the monks about the reaction of Subhadda to the news of the death of the Buddha. This incidence is also given in the MPS. From the Cullavagga account it is clear thatthe monks in general have not yet heard of the Subhadda episode. This

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detail would be out of place if we have to admit that the Cullavagga XI was composed at a later period when the MPS had already become quite well known to the Buddhist community. This ignorance on the part of the Buddhist monks indirectly shows that the MPS was not yet composed at that time.

As already pointed out, the Cullavagga XI mainly consists of a number of krtyas or Formal Acts performed by the Samgha. The chanting of the dharma and the vinaya, the deliberations on the minor rules etc. are different Formal Acts. The features of a Formal Act have been carefully preserved in case of the chanting of the dhamma and the vinaya which is mentioned in all the vinaya versions including that of the Mahasamghikas, and thus belongs to the earliest strata of traditon. This is the most important of all the Formal Acts discussed in this chapter, and for the sake of which the First Council was probably held. Now as the chanting is a Formal Act, it, according to the ancient legal custom, was performed with reference to the vatthu, nidana and puggala, (18) i.e. the subject-matter, the place and the person or persons concerned. The necessary information about these three points were generally supplied as a sort of introduction to the legal act of krtya. The Formal Act of chanting of the dhamma and the vinaya also has its introduction which still can be discerned in the first few sections of the Culavagga XI.(19) This introduction which contains the story of Subhadda(20) must be as old as the First Council, and consequently must have been a part of the Buddhist canon long before the MPS came to be recognised as a canonical work.

But how this episode came to be later included in the MPS? The reason would be clear if we once again pay attention to the contents of the MPS. This work deals with among other things the parinirvana of the Buddha and other incidents directly connected with it. So it is but natural that the compiler of the

        (18) I have shown that the invariable association of
             "vatthu", nidana, and puggala with the vinaya
             was due to ancient legal Custom (see ibid, pp.92ff)
             , krtya being a legal act should also be discussed
             together with vatthu, etc.

        (19) Cullavagga XI.1 (PTS, London, 1977 p.284 ff.)

        (20) Cullavagga XI, pp.284ff (Vinaya Pitaka
             vol II (PTS, London, 1977) (Mi) T. vol.22, p.190b
             (Dh) , T.22, p.966b.

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MPS got interested in the incidence of Subhadda as it is directly related to the death of the Buddha. The state of things thus influencing the composition of the Cullavagga XI and the MPS may be described as follows: The incidence of Subhadda became widely known to the Buddhist monks in that early period after Kassapa's report. It came to be first included in the official Buddhist tradition as a part of the krtya related to the chanting of the dhamma and the vinaya. And the same story due to its connection with the death of the Buddha became an episode in the MPS. The verbatim identity existing between the two accounts can be safely put to the credit of the later editors. The other details exclusively connected with the krtya of chanting such as the official proposition to chant, the selection of the place for chanting etc. were ignored by the compiler of the MPS as these were not directly related to the parinirvana of the Buddha. We can justifiably reject the thesis of Oldenberg that the chanting of the dharma and vinaya together with other relevant details given in the Cullavagga XI but not found in the MPS are but later fictitious additions to the earlier account of Subhadda. With the acceptance of the historical nature of the chanting the bar to the authenticity of the First Council is also removed. We find that there is no reason to doubt the historical nature of the First Council simply because it has not been mentioned in the MPS.

The cases of the minor rules (Khuddanukhuddakani sikkhapadani) and the monk Channa are slightly different. Each of these episodes consists of two parts: i) the Buddha's instruction, and ii) the execution of this instruction. The instructions on these two cases are mentioned both in the MPS(21)and the Cullavagga (22) while the account of their execution is only found in the CullavaggaOldenberg (23) came to the conclusion that the monks were no longer aware whether the Buddha's instructions had already been carried out or not. So they imagined fitting sequels to those-instructions in the form of suitable actions taken by the Samgha. This theory of Oldenberg is solely based on two presuppositions:

        (21) MPS (VI.3).

        (22) CV XI. 12; XI. 9.

        (23) Poussin, Councils p. 22t note 64.

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i) The MPS is an earlier work which influenced the composition of the Cullavagga XI at a later date.

ii) The time-gap between the MPS and the Cullavagga is long enough to make the monks uncertain about the execution of the Buddha's orders.

But these presuppositions cannot be accepted. The entire Buddhist canon does not provide us with the slightest ground to suppose that the devoted disciples would be so indifferent to the instructions of the Buddha that they would not only neglect to execute them but would not even be certain whether the instructions have been carried out or not. It world be more reasonable to accept as fact the Cullavagga account that the monks lost no time to act according to the orders of the Buddha. The other objections to the theory of Oldenberg would be the same as what we have already pointed out regarding the chanting of the dhamma and vinaya, viz. i) the Cullavagga XI is as old as the First Council and the M PS is a comparatively later work; ii) the instructions of the Buddha being connected with the last days of the Buddha naturally find mention in the MPS while official actions taken on the basis of the instructions by the Samgha should belong to the category of krtya and as such are justifiably excluded from the MPS and included in the Cullavagga

Poussin's view and its criticism

Poussin does not subscribe to the view of Oldenberg and puts it aside as a mere hypothesis. (24) The path he treads is not entirely different from his predecessors; he develops a view which is an improved version of Minayeff's theory. Like Minayeff, he percieves multiple internal contradictions in the account of the Cullavagga XI, regards the chanting of dhamma and vinaya as a later product of imagination because of such contradiction but ascribes the other episodes to an authentic, earlier tradition. Actually the main thrust of his arguments is to prove the legendary nature of the account of chanting the dhamma and vinaya. He strongly believes in the legendary nature of this episode, and this attitude has influenced his summarisation of the CV XI, the

        (24) Council, p.13.

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beginning of which may be quoted below:(25)

Kassapa suddenly appears on the scene, no one knows where and addressing himself to no one knows whom he relates how during his journey, he has learned the death of his master.

The expressions given in italics by me were used by Poussin to emphasise the vaguesess and suddenness of the rambling Cullavagga account, and thus to raise doubt about its authenticity. It is to be noted that this imperfect beginning was made to gradually lead us to the account of the chanting of the dhamma and vinaya in the Council.

He proceeds further to show that the account of the chanting does not fit well with the two other episodes narrated in the Cullavagga XI, viz. the account of the charges brought against, Ananda, and the discussion on the minor rules (khuddanukhuddakani sikkhapadani). We may first start with the episode of Ananda.(26)

The monks reproach Ananda with a number of faults which he had committed before his attainment of the status of an arhat. For example, they told Ananda: "You committed a fault for you had not enquired about the minor rules. Confess your fault. "Ananda confessed the faults which he had done either through forgetfulness or with a good intention. And all his replies end with the formula: "I do not see any wrong in that . Nevertheless out of deference to you (ayusmantanam sddhaya) I confess this sin."

Minayeff (27) questions the propriety of charges being brought against one who is an arhat.

Ananda has already become an impeccable saint, that is an arhat, and yet he submits to a trial; the assembly calls upon him to do penitence for some sins..... at any rate, it is a fact that the most ancient accounts

        (25) Council, p.2.

        (26) CV XI. 10; T.22, p.191 b3ff; T.22, p.967b 2 7ff.

        (27) Poussin, Councils, p.15; Minayeff, (Cherches, p.31)

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have, in spite of their late redaction, preservedthe vagueness of the primitive ideas with regard to the saint. We can hardly consider even the fact of the trial an invention of the legend.....

It is obvious that Minayeff takes the tradition of Ananda's trial to be genuine which leads him to conclude that the ideal of an arhat was still vague. This speaks in favour of the antiquity of the tradition. On the other hand, the episode of chanting which could only be done by Arhats, shows that the Arhats were already valued as perfect saints. This is, no doubt, a later tradition, and is contradicted by the earlier tradition. Hence the episode of chanting is a legend.

Oldenberg (28) objects to this view. He points out that the Arhat ideal must have been clear from very ancient time, but he holds that one can naturally make mistake before becoming an arhat, and he can be judged for such a mistake even after he has attained the status of an arhat. Oldenberg points out that anybody who is familiar with the Vinaya, will agree that every offence committed must find its disciplinary action without taking account of the fact as to the guilty person has in the meantime attained to some degree of spiritual perfection. Against this view of Oldenberg, Poussin (29) draws our attention to the episode of Channa and works out a long and complicated thesis in defense of Minayeff. Let us take a look at the episode of Channa (30) so that we would be in a better position to understand the view of Poussin.

After the chanting of dharma and vinaya, Ananda informed the monks that the Buddha had instructed the Samgha to impose the brahmadanda on Channa. Being asked by the monks Ananda explains the nature of this punishment: "Let the monk Channa speak whatever pleases him; the monks will not speak to him, will not exhort him, neither will they warn him. “Ananda agrees to go and announce this sentence to Channa, provided a group of monks accompanies him, "for this monk is fierce and passionate“. Ananda announces this sentence to Channa who receives it with great humility. His grief and remorse is such that

        (28) Poussin,   Councils,   pp.15 ∼ 16;  Oldenberg,
             Buddhistiche Studien,pp.620∼21.

        (29) Poussin, Councils, p.16.

        (30) XI.12, T.22, p.192 a15ff, etc.

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he attains the state of an arhat. He then tells A nada: "Suppress for me, O Ananda, the brahmadanda. "From the same moment, O Channa, that you realised the quality of arhat, from that same moment the brahmadand a was suppressed."

The point which Poussin wants to make is that while in case of Channa the punishment is lifted due to his attainment of 'arhatva' , Ananda, on the other hand, is subjected to disciplinary action even after he becomes arhat. The samgha is adopting different types of action against 2 Arhats. Poussin further states that Channa finds himself absolved from the brahmandand a when it is no longer harmful to him.

This state of things, according to Poussin, (31) shows that from very ancient time the Buddhists were having two very different concepts about the state of an arhat. It refers to a very early period when the concept of arhat had not yet been dogmatically propounded. This is what Minayeff saw here. He is therefore, justified in pointing out the contradiction between the Ananda episode and the tradition of chanting.

In support of this contention Poussin further states that according to orthodox argument, not only the arhat cannot fall, but also the counsel, assistance etc. of others are absolutely useless to him. The story of an arhat culpable and subject to penance against will is contrary to the orthodoxy of the non-Mahasamghikas. The story of Channa reflects the attitude of the conservative group while episode of Ananda shows the existence of the non-orthodox group which later championed the five points of Mahadeva and facilitated the rise of the Mahasamghikas.

Poussin(32) is further of the opinion that "in the oldest account there is no question of a Council; they reprimand Ananda. If one adds to this nucleus the legend of a Council, the reprimand of Ananda will not at first change its character: and if orthodoxy, just about to be formed exacts that all the members of the Council should be Arhats, there will no difficulty in assigning to the reprimand the second rank which is suitable to it after the narration of an event of

        (31) Poussin, Councils, pp.15∼17.

        (32) Ibid, p.17.

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so great importance as the redaction of the Scriptures. Orthodoxy is not yet sufficiently sensitive to feel the contradiction of the chronological arrangement; it is not sufficiently rigid to exclude the precise mention of the 'non-sanctity' of Ananda at the time of a gathering the object of which was to punish him. All that the orthodox tendency can obtain is to promote A nanda to sanctify during the night of the Council.

The elaborate speculations of Poussin can be summarised thus: Originally the episode of Ananda who was not an arhat was an independent matter which became in course of time the nucleus to which was added the imginary account of the Council. Due to the importance of the Council its account was related first and then was narrated the episode of Ananda. Up to this stage of development there is no contradiction, for the arhat element has not yet been introduced. The contradiction arises when due to the demand of orthodoxy Ananda is first made an arhat before th Council starts, and then because of the previously arranged sequence of events, is made to face the charges brought against him.

Poussin comes to the same conclusion regarding the discussion on the minor rules (Khuddanukhuddakani sikkhapadani)(33)during the First Coucil. Poussin draws our attention to the three references to the minor rules in the MP S VI. 3, the CV XI. 9, and the Pacittiya LXXII. In the MPS the Buddha permits the Order to abolish the minor rules if it deems it necessary to do so. In the CV XI we read that Ananda informed the Samgha about this permission of the Buddha. On being asked Ananda admitted that he had not asked the Buddha which these rules were. The monks offered six different suggestions about the identity of the minor rules, but could not come to any decision. On the advice of Kassapa the Samgha adopted the resolution not to change anything which the Buddha had approved. The Pacittiya LXXII states: " If a monk at the time of recitation of the Patimokkha should speak thus: 'What is the good of recitation of the minor rules, except to engender doubt, weariness and perplexity?', this monk is guilty of contemning the rules."

In his discussion on these three references Poussin (34) agrees entirely with

        (33) Ibid, pp.21ff.

        (34) Ibid, p.22.

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Minayeff. He points out that whether these references are considered separately or collectively, it becomes clear that here one is dealing with a datum ‘bearing the mark of great antiquity' and which is irreconcilable with a rigorous constitution already fixed by discipline.

Let us first discuss how old could these references be. The compilation of MPS, as we have already shown, occured at a comparatively later time, after the First Council but before the rise of different Buddhist sects. The Pacittiya rule in question also appears to have been promulgated after the First Council. Poussin(35)thinks that Kassapa, Upali, Ananda etc. missed this rule during the First Council. This view is not tenable. It is really unthinkable that the Vinaya experts among the monks would not recall to mind this rule when they were discussing the problem of the minor rules. It is even most likely that the other monks also would be able to point out this Pacittiya rule, for they listened to the recital of Pratimoksa every month. We have good reasons to hold that this rule was not yet formulated at the time of the First Council, and that this Pacittiya rule came into existence later under the influence of the First Council's discussions on the minor rules. It was only during the First Council that the monks for the first time came to know that the Buddha had designated a part of the Pratimoksa rules as khuddanukhuddakani sikkhapadani, and also became aware of the fact that they did not know which rules the Buddha meant when he talked about the abrogation of some minor rules. It was also shortly before his death that the Buddha for the first time used this particular term for the minor rules. So it is not possible that this Pacittiya rule was promulgated before the First Council.

In the MPS the Buddha permits the Samgha to annul the minor rules, but the arhats during the First Council decided to preserve all the Vinaya rules, for they lacked precise knowledge as to the identity of the minor rules. They virtually put an end to all future deliberations on this problem. It is obvious that the statement of the Pacittiya rule that any discussion unfavourable to the recitation of the minor rules will lead to uncertainity, and therefore it is an ecclesiastical offence to do so reflects faithfully the cautious spirit of the First Council, but runs counter to the generous attitude of the Buddha. This suggests that the Pacittiya

        (35) Ibid, p.22, note 63.

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LXXII was promulgated after the First council.

The Cullavagga XI account of the minor rules, however, really belongs to a very early period. It has been mentioned in all the Vinaya versions, and therefore surely goes back to the time of the undivided Buddhist community. And this genuinely old tradition of the minor rules according to Poussin cannot be reconciled with the tradition of chanting the Vinaya, for while the former shows that the disciplinary rules at the time of the death of the Buddha were very far from being fixed, the latter speaks of the rules being officially fixed during the First Council. This contradiction shows that the account of the chanting is a later fabrication. Poussin further thinks that this episode also shows a clash between the liberal and orthodox forces.(36)

Criticism of Poussin's view

We have seen that one of the reasons for which Poussin considers the chanting to be a legend is that the initial part of the account of the CV XI leaves out many necessary details and so appears to be disconnected and abrupt. This objection of Poussin is not tenable when we comprehend the true nature of this part of the Cullavagga account. Here we are actually dealing with an introduction to the Krtya of chanting the dharma and vinaya. An official act performed by the Samgha, that is a krtya, must be accompanied by informations regarding vatthu, nidana and puggala. The initial portion of the Cullavagga XI provides us with necessary informations on these points. It tells us about the business the monks are to perform (vatthu) , the place where the chanting is to take place (nidana) and the persons selected for the chanting (puggala). As all these relevant details are contained in this portion of the Cullavagga XI account, it cannot be regarded as disconnected and abrupt. The introductory part of the Cullavagga account has even indirectly mentioned the story of Subhadda as the cause of the chanting. Though this piece of information was not legally necessary for the krtya, it was naturally recorded as it was so closely connected with the proposal of chanting. This also seems to be an authentic piece of tradition as it not only finds mention not only in the different Sthavira accounts

        (36) Ibid, p.25.

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but also in the Mahasamghika Vinaya. The other details to which Poussin drew our attention while summarising the Cullavagga account are so superfluous from the legal point of view of the Buddist Samgha and so far removed from the account of the chanting that they were quite naturally ignored in the Vinaya accounts. It is absolutely superfluous to introduce the introduction containing the legally necessary informations concerning the krtya, and the recording of these details would be unnecessary even for introducing the introduction. Thus the non-mention of these details does not in the least affect the authenticity of the Cullavagga account.

It is also not correct to maintain that the two episodes of Channa and Ananda prove the imposition of different punishments where uniformity was expected. From the MPS and CV accounts it is clear that Channa has not actually committed any offence. He was known to be of passionate and violent nature, and the brahmadanda was imposed on him not as a punishment for some offence already done, but as a preventive measure. It was imposed to prevent the arising of a situation that may provoke Channa to act violently to others. The narration in the Cullavagga does not show that due to his attainment of 'arhatva' Channa is getting absolved from any offence committed by him in the past. Ananda, on the other hand, has actually done something which was wrong in the opinion of the Samgha, and must be met with disciplinary action. Thus the cases of Channa and Ananda represent two different legal problems, and the Cullavagga is, therefore, justified in recording two different types of actions being taken against them. This account of the Cullavagga cannot be interpreted as showing the existence of two different concepts of arhat followed by the orthodox and non-orthodox monks. Moreover the contention that an arhat cannot be subjected to any disciplinary action does not stand to reason. The term ‘arhat' simply stands for a spiritual concept. Arhat is an enlightened person who has attained freedom from ignorance, passions and rebirth. But he is liable to commit mistake about anything which is not integral to the enlightened state of an arhat. In the Cullavagga XI itself we have passages which confirm our characterisation of an arhat. Here we read the Ananda(37) became free from passions (asrava) when he

        (37) CV XI. 6; T. 22, p. 190c 16ff; (T.22),
             967a20ff etc.

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attained the spiritual height of arhatva. We also know from this chapter of the Cullavagga that the arhats made mistake about the definition of minor rules. Similarly the mistakes Ananda made had nothing to do with the ‘arhatva'. From the confession of Ananda it appears that the actions of Ananda were not even mistakes according to the current monastic rules, though the Samgha had the legal authority to interpret them as mistakes. These actions of Ananda came to be regarded as offences of which Ananda was absolved by confession. It should be also noted in this connection that there is no doctrine belonging to this early period explicitly stating that an arhat can never act in a culpable manner, or that he cannot be charged for any violation of the discipline done by him. Thus there is no reason to conclude that the episode of the charges against Ananda contradicts the tradition that he had attained arhatva before he was subjected to disciplinary action.(38) The incidence of charges aginst Ananda does not reveal the vagueness of the arhat concept, but it shows that the spiritual perfection of an arhat does not automatically exempt him form his past mistakes in disciplinary matters. This legal standpoint is in conformity with the Buddhist doctrine of karma. Even a Buddha has to suffer the effects of his past actions.

Likewise Poussin's observations on the account of the Khuddanukhuddakani sikkhapadani cannot be accepted. Poussin first emphasises the antiquity of the tradition regarding the minor rules, and then proceeds to point out that this tradition is irreconcilable with the episode of chanting the entire Vinaya, thereby implying that the tradition of chanting cannot be trusted as an authentic piece of history.(39) The view that the tradition of the minor rules goes back to remote antiquity can be fully supported. We have seen that the promulgation of the Pacittiya LXXII was caused by the discussion of minor rules in the First Council.

        (38) Poussin, (Councils, p.17) points out that A nanda
             was judged after he became an arhat.  Thus this
             tradition appears not only in the account of the
             two Sthavira stereams but also in the Mahasamghika
             Vinaya.  So this tradition might have belonged to
             the earliest strata (for 3 streams of tradition,
             see, Mukherjee, ibid, pp.81∼83.).

        (39) Both Poussin and Oldenberg think the tradition
             about the minor rules also is not historical,
             see Poussin, Councils, p. 26, note 64.

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This indirectly proves the antiquity of the tradition about its discussion in the First Council. The fact that this tradition finds mention in all the Vinayas including that of the Mahasamghikas, proves that it originated before the Sthavire- Mahasamghika schism, and should be taken to be as old as the First Council. However the other part of Poussin's theory viz. The tradition of the minor rules are earlier than the tradition of chanting and contradicts it, cannot be supported. Poussin based his conclusion on the assumption that at the time of the discussion of the minor rules no fixed code of discipline existed. It appears that this surmise of Poussin is too far fetched and does not take into consideration other relevant traditions. The discussions on the minor rules show that the Buddhists were already certain about the definition of Vinaya, and they also knew that the minor rules consisted of a part of this Vinaya, though they had no precise knowledge as to which part it was. The definition of Vinaya that emerges from the discussions on the minor rules is in conformity with the concept of Vinaya(40) that emerges from our discussion of the schismatic matters. And the discussions on the minor rules and the chanting of the Vinaya were done by the same group of monks. So it is obvious that the Vinaya was already a fixed code at the time of the First Council, and the tradition about the chanting cannot be later than that of the discussion on the minor rules. Both these traditions belong to the same period and find mention in all the Vinayas. Moreover, that the Buddhists were discussing the minor rules in order to abrogate a part of the Vinaya does not in any way prove that the Vinaya, as understood by them in that early period, was not already compiled and fixed. The monks connot be expected to abrogate a part of the Vinaya, unless they know what is exactly meant by Vinaya. This opinion is also supported by the tradition that the Buddha told Ananda that the dhamma and vinaya would be the teacher of the monks after his death.(41) Moreover the fact that the Vinaya consists of the rules promulgated by the Buddha did not form a bar to the abolition of a part of it. For it was the

        (40) Mukherjee, ibid, pp.89∼93.

        (41) MPS VI.1.

        Key words: 1.  Mahapaninibbanasutta  2.  Krtya
                   3.  Khuddanukhuddakani sikkhapadani
                   4.  Brahmadanda  5.  Arhat

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Buddha himself who had authorised the monks to abrogate the minor rules if necessary. Thus the contention of Poussin that the tradition of chanting the vinaya at the First Council is a legend for it is contradicted by the earlier tradition of the minor rules is not acceptable.


The historic nature of the Cullavagga XI account, specially the episode of chanting the dhamma and vinaya, has been denied either because of the silence of the MPS about the chanting, or due to the internal contradictions supposed to be existing between the different episodes narrated in the Cullavagga XI. But we found that these objections against the authenticity of the account are not valid, for they are based on the following wrong assumptions:

1) the MPS is earlier than the Cullavagga XI;

2) the MPS would have recorded the krtyas concerning, the chanting, the minor rules, charges against Ananda etc. if these were known to it;

3) the episodes of Ananda and the minor rules represent earlier tradition and contradict the account of chanting which is of later origin.

These assumptions are shown to be wrong by our finding that while the MPS deal with materials connected with the dhamma, the Cullavagga XI is concerned with krtya traditions, and as such the MPS will naturally omit traditions that rightfully belong to the category of krtya. Moreover we have shown that all these episodes including that of the chanting belong to the earliest traceable tradition current before the Sthavira-Maha samghika schism, and there is no objective ground whatsoever to hold one episode earlier than the other.

On the other hand, there is strong internal evidence to show that the episode of chanting also bears mark of great antiquity. If we analyse materials bearing upon the connotation of the term 'vinaya' as given in accounts of the First Council, and the list of schismatic matters, we will see that the term 'vinaya' has been used in an extremely archaic sense, viz. to mean some of the disciplinary rules at present included in the Pratimoksa-sutra and the informations regarding vatthu, nidana and puggala with reference to these rules. Hence not only the episodes of Ananda, minor rules etc. but also the account of chanting the dhamma and vinaya should be regarded as history.