Favouring Mahāsāṃghika Scriptures

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.
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Re: Favouring Mahāsāṃghika Scriptures

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Jun 27, 2012 8:08 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:
Huseng wrote:It was the Sthaviravādins (ancestors of Theravada), not the Mahāsāṃghikas, who wanted to add material to the Vinaya, which led to the schism as the story goes.

Comparative analysis has lead some scholars to believe the Mahāsāṃghika material best represents the earliest available versions of Buddhist texts. They tend to have less material than from other schools, which in the context of religious literature usually means it is the earlier edition because material is usually added, not deleted, over time.


In most situations I would agree with that. However, 227 precepts are a lot of things to follow! And there are bound to be some, as we see even today, who want to relax some of those rules/precepts. And according to the accounts of the Second Buddhist council it was over 10 major points, including using money, eating after midday, etc., i.e., that some wanted to reduce the number of rules, not to add any. If the account we have for the Second Buddhist council is correct, I would say that gives more evidence that the Pali Canon is the earliest Buddhavacana that we know of.


well as David notes, there was more going on at the second council that wanting to add to the vinaya, there was (to put it in one way) a wanting to loose rules also, I think the names of the groups also give a clue as to who was keeping the original set of rules, although that isn't a guarantee.

I agree with David in that the Pali canon is the oldest complete canon available to us, as a general rule, the other existing texts may in some cases represent an older version, and it would be up to the individual or group to decide whether or not any noticeable differences add what is not dhamma, or add to better understanding of the dhamma.
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Re: Favouring Mahāsāṃghika Scriptures

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Jun 27, 2012 9:39 pm

after doing a little more reading on the vinaya differences it looks like the tightness or laxity of vinaya to be a cause of a schism to be relitively minor, yet no less so on either side

The Role of Prātimokṣa Expansion in the Rise of Indian Buddhist Sectarianism - Charles S. Prebish - p33 (as per number on page) wrote:the Mahāsāṃghika-Lokottaravādin’s (in Sanskrit) and the Theravādin’s (in Pāli), amply shows that the two texts bear remarkable coincidence in all but one category: the śaikṣa-dharmas (simple faults or misdeeds, the least serious category of precepts). In that category, the Mahāsāṃghika text posits sixty-seven items, while the Theravāda text posits seventy-five.


there is noted in this document by Charles Prebish that there are 4 rules only found in the Mahāsāṃghika and 12 rules found only in the Theravādin which are not directly found in the other, although without reading a rule by rule comparison it is difficult to precisely know if these are actula differences or just different forms of expression at least in the four rules of the Mahāsāṃghika.
the rules all seam to be dealing with the matters arrising on the Theravadin side and as the document says

The Role of Prātimokṣa Expansion in the Rise of Indian Buddhist Sectarianism - Charles S. Prebish - p42 (as per number on page) wrote:if the Buddhist community was plagued by the genuine threat of saṃghabheda in the aftermath of the council of Vaiśālī, and specifically with regard to matters of personal and institutional integrity and ethical conduct, it might well be both logical and reasonable to tighten the monastic code by the addition of a number of rules designed to make the required conduct more explicit.

So the answer may infact be a mix of the two, the Mahāsāṃghika were too lax and the Theravādin wanted to remedy this; and the Mahāsāṃghika wanted to keep the rules as they were and the Theravādin wanted to make things more binding due to the problem at hand.
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Re: Favouring Mahāsāṃghika Scriptures

Postby ancientbuddhism » Wed Jun 27, 2012 9:54 pm

Steven Collins discusses the “... Pali canon — the earliest extant record of the Buddha’s teachings...” claims in this article: On the Very Idea of the Pali Canon:

    “In this paper I address the issue of the formation and role of the Pali Canon (1) in Theravāda history and culture. My perspective is strictly that of an external observer wishing to make a contribution to historical scholarship, or at least to initiate an academic discussion of the issue: I mean to imply no evaluation whatsoever of any way in which the Canon has been or is seen by Theravāda Buddhists. From this perspective and for these purposes, I want to suggest that the role of the Canonical texts in Theravāda tradition has been misunderstood, and that the usual scholarly focus on the early period of Theravāda is misplaced. We must, I will suggest, reject the equation ‘the Pali Canon = Early Buddhism’, (2) and move away from an outmoded and quixotic concern with origins to what I would see as a properly focussed and realistic historical perspective. Rather than pre-existing the Theravāda school, as the textual basis from which it arose and which it sought to preserve, the Pali Canon – by which I mean the closed list of scriptures with a special and specific authority as the avowed historical record of the Buddha’s teaching – should be seen as a product of that school, as part of a strategy of legitimation by the monks of the Mahāvihāra lineage in Ceylon in the early centuries of the first millennium A.D.”


    1. References to Pāli texts use the abbreviations of the Critical Pāli Dictionary.
    2. The general tenor of the re-evaluation I am recommending here is very much in line with the work being produced by Gregory Schopen, who has shown that for so many things either not found or not emphasised in the Canon, and usually seen as ‘later’ developments, there is in fact extensive evidence in the earliest archaeological and epigraphical remains: see, for example Schopen 1984, 1985 and 1989.
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