The origin, development and influence of Mahasanghika School on Buddhism.
After the 2nd Buddhist council, 100 years after Buddha’s mahaparinibbana, there was a schism of the Sangha into the Theravada and Mahasanghika Schools. 18 Schools subsequently developed from them.
A schism (sangha-bheda) can be validly initiated by the formation of a party of at least nine qualified members in a sangha. When an original sangha split up into 2 sanghas, the one with the opposing views would have to leave to a different avasa (Monk’s dwelling). Each sect then revised its vinaya rules and the doctrine. They might transpose suttas belonging to one place of collection to another place or omitted others. Each school also had a version of the Lord Buddha’s life and its approved teachings. The resident monks of a school would hold periodical rehearsals and recitations of the revised doctrine and vinaya in their own dwellings.
The new school would have a leader known as Acariya. The schools are called acariyavada, “schools of teachers” and may suggest the rise of prominent teachers who were able to impose their views on certain communities. The names of schools could be from personal names of the acariyas, the name of places or the peculiar doctrine of the school.
Mahasanghika School and its subsidiary schools
The schools had common doctrines with minor differences. The Mahasanghika was called such due to its large number of 10,000 which comprised of both common folk and Arahants. They objected to the Theravada monks bounding up the Dhamma and Vinaya, making it a religion for monkhood.
1. They introduced the 10 new Vinaya rules which were considered unorthodox during the second Buddhist council. They had their own Vinaya Pitaka.
2. Mahadeva’s 5 points, which lower the status of Arahants. The Mahasanghikas believed that the stage of Arahant is not immune for a fall to a lower stage. Arahants realize only half the truth and are subjected to retrogression: i. An Arahant may be subjected to temptation. ii. One may be an Arahant and does not know it iii. An Arahant may have doubts on matter of doctrine. iv. One cannot be an Arahant without a teacher. v. One may attain perfection by meditating with such exclamation as ‘How sad, how sad.’
3. New Concept of Buddha as an omniscient (all-knowing) being.
They did not subscribe that Buddha was a human being. They did not like the idea that Buddha was a human being who lived and died. They transcended him to a high divine position even before his enlightenment.
i. Omniscient even before birth. Buddha was in a meditative position in his mother’s womb and preached to devas. ii. He was able to walk immediately after birth. ii. The marriage of Prince Siddharta was for ‘appearance’, Yasodhara was not touched and Rahula birth was considered miraculous. iii. Buddha is of Saha lokadhatu – Buddha can appear everywhere in the world system, Material body (Rupakaya/ Nirmana kaya) is unlimited, immeasurable. Created form (abhinimmito jino) can be located anywhere to deliver discourses. iv. Buddha’s body is entirely supramundane (lokuttara). His material body is entirely pure and indestructible. v. Buddha’s bodily movements are also supramundane. “He cannot have any disease and still he takes medicine to cure himself.” It is for following the ways of the world that he shows his iriyapathas (movements of Buddha). vi. The super divine Buddha did not deliver any discourses to his disciples but by the utterance of one word (sabda), Buddha expounds all doctrine vii. Unlimited length of life (ayu). viii. Unlimited divine powers (prabhava) ix. Neither sleeps nor dreams as mind is always in meditation. x. Buddha can comprehend everything in one moment (ekaksanika citta) and his mind is like a mirror. xi. Buddha is never tired of enlightening sentient beings and awakening the pure faith (visuddhi saddha)
4. A new Bodhisattva Ideal theory i. Supramundane. Can take up any form of lower existence for enlightening other forms of beings. Enters his mother’s womb and preaches to heavenly beings. ii. Developed bodhicitta and by fulfilling paramitas to become a predestined Bodhisattva, then a Buddha. Importance was placed on Bodhicitta than on Brahmacariya and ariyamagga. iii. Career is marked more by love and compassion for suffering beings than by path culture. iv. Has no trace of desire, hatred or malice.
5. Ideals of Mahasanghika Ideals of Mahasanghika school were: Samma Sambodhi, Bodhisattva, Pacceka Bodhi and then Arahant
6. They had their Own literature in sanskrit
i. Pitaka Vinaya Pitaka ii. Agama Sutta iii. Sutra Parinibbana Sutta iv. Paramita Perfection v. Avatamsaka Flower Garland. Lotus Sutra. vi. Avadana Heroic deeds
7. Made alterations in the Sutta. Propounded new doctrines contrary to established ones. Canonized a number of sutras. The canon did not include Parivara, Abhidhammappakarana, Magga Niddesa and Jataka. i. Yuan Chwang recorded that Mahasangika had a complete canon of Sutra, Vinaya, Abhidhamma, Dharani and Miscellanous in 5 parts. ii. Amaravati Stone Slab referred to ‘Pancamatuka’ - the 5 texts. iii. Fa-hien came across the complete transcript of Mahasanghika Vinaya at Pataliputra and translated it 2 years later. Site – Centre was at Pataliputra, mainly Magadha. After leaving Magadha, they settled in North and Northwest India mainly. Also Lata, Sindhu (Western India). Another group went to south India and settled in Andhra Pradesh around Amaravati, Dhanyakataka, Nagarjunikonda. Amaravati had been a center of the Mahasanghikas for centuries Inscriptions at Amaravati and Nagajunikonda spoke of the Mahasanghika monks (mahavinayadhara) and nuns (vinayadhara).