How the bhikkhu sangha evolved during the lifetime of Gotama Buddha. The beginning
After Buddha enlightened, he went back to teach the 5 ascetics (kondanna, vappa, Bhaddiya, Mahanama and Assaji) in the Deer Park at Isipatana. He taught the first discourse Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta and second discourse Anattalakkhana sutta. After the second discourse all 5 monks became arahants.
Yasa (the 6th disciple) later heard what Buddha preached to his father and became fully enlightened. He then converted 54 friends. So at this stage Buddha had 60 disciples. Later on Buddha converted 30 young men, 3 kassapa brothers and their 1000 followers. His top two disciples Sariputta and Moggallana joined the sangha after hearing what Assaji told them. By now the sangha had grew to thousands of bhikkhus.
Kinds of Ordination during Buddha's time
Buddha ordained people in this manner at first: he stretched his right palm and say ehi bhikkhu (Come, O monks) and the man would be accepted into the order. The new bhikkhu will then don his robe and shave his head. This ordination became higher ordination at the same time.
Initially, only Buddha could ordain monks. This became time and energy consuming. Buddha then said to his monks “O monks, I advise you to give ordination and higher ordination wherever you are. Today, I’m going to share with you the ordination process. From today onward, you will be able to ordain others.” He then asked his monks to ordain monks and spread the dhamma far and wide for the benefits of all sentient beings.
Ordination process introduced by Buddha: - where the monks take refuge in Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha (Triple gem).
3. Third kind of ordination – Natthi Catutthakamma upasampada
Sariputta ordained a very old Brahmin, Radha. Some Sangha members objected. Because of that Buddha enjoined the monks to confer higher ordination by the motion followed by three announcements. It is a procedure whereby the Sangha gathers to hear the motion that so-and-so requests Acceptance into the Sangha, and then listens in silence to three announcements. If there is no objections as indicated by silence, the person is accepted as a monk under a preceptor.
This is the standard procedure for conferring higher ordination in all Theravadan countries today.
4.Fourth kind of ordination – Ovadapatiggahana (Acceptance of advice)
The acceptance of 3 sermons given to Mahakassapa by the Buddha was sufficient for him to be admitted into the order. - One should develop a keen sense of shame and fear of wrong doing towards all monks in the Sangha - One should listen attentively, examine and reflect and then absorb wholesome teachings - One should always train in Mindfulness.
5.Fifth kind of ordination – Panhabyakarana (Answering questions)
Answering questions set by the Buddha to Boy, Sopaka was sufficient for him to be admitted into the order.
1. What is one? All beings are sustained by food 2. What are the two? Name and form 3. What are the three? The three sensations 4. What are the four? The four Noble truths 5. …………five? Clinging to the 5 aggregates 6. ……… six? Six sense bases 7. ………seven? Seven factors of enlightenment 8. ……… eight? Eightfold Noble Path 9. ………..nine? Nine abodes of beings 10. …………ten? Ten qualities of arahant
6.Sixth kind of ordination – Atthagarudhamma (Acceptance of eight strict rules)
Mahapajapati Gotami was eventually accepted into the order by agreeing to accept the eight strict rules in accordance to Bhikkhuni Khandhaka of the Cullavagga Pali.
7. Seventh kind of ordination – Duta (Through an emissary)
With reference to a former courtesan, Addhakasi; the Buddha empowered the monks to confer Higher Ordination through an emissary.
8.Eighth kind of ordination – Atthavacika (Pronouncement of eight times)
Motion and announcement are pronounced eight times before both monk and nun communities. Previously, ordination and higher ordination were conferred at the same time. However, there were a group of monks who misbehaved, they reiterated that they did not request for higher ordination. Hence, upasampada was made on a separate occasion to be witnessed by a group of monks and the samanera or novice has to request from the Sangha thrice for higher ordination.
Bhikkhu: What does it mean?
1. Code and conduct. A Bhikkhu should not indulge in the 2 extremes (antas) of enjoyment of passions and self- mortification.
2. Live by layperson support of 4 requisites. Bhikhatiti Bhikkhu is one who depends on collecting alms. The Sanskrit word Bhiksha also means collecting alms and depending on it.
3. Knowing the danger of samsara (Samsare Bhayan Ikkhatiti Bhikkhu – He who contemplates the dangers of Samsara).
A novice, a samanera, is not a permanent member of the Sangha. He takes the 10 precepts for samaneras (dasa sikkhapada): Abstention from
1. Destruction of life 2. Stealing 3. Unchastity 4. Speaking untruth 5. Taking fermented and distilled intoxicating drinks 6. Taking meals at unseemly hours 7. Watching dancing, singing, music and theatrical performances 8. Wearing garlands and applying scents, cosmetics and ornaments 9. Using high and expensive beds 10. Accepting gold and silver Upon taking the higher ordination, the novice becomes a permanent member of the Sangha and would be able to exert his rights as a Sangha member. The number of rain retreats, which the monk had gone through, indicates his seniority. A junior monk has to bow to a monk with more vassa (rain retreats), regardless of age. An older monk in age would have to bow to a younger monk if the latter had been in the Sangha longer. A novice has to disrobe before requesting for higher ordination, upasampada (taking upon or acquiring). He takes up the 227 vinaya rules Patimokka of:
In the beginning, there was no rule. The early monks were guided by disciplinary measures in common practice among other recluses. Buddha told Sariputta that discipline is the most important for the survival of the sasana. Sariputta then requested Buddha to put down as many disciplinary rules as possible.
Sangha is caste-less. As it grew in number of people from all walks of life, there were monks who were disorderly. Buddha decided to introduce the disciplinary rules. The objectives of the rules
1. For the excellence of the order (Without Vinaya, Sangha could not last long) 2. For the comfort of the order (So that monks may have few obstacles and live peacefully) 3. For the restraint of evil minded men (who could cause trouble in the Sangha) 4. For the ease of well-behaved monks (Pure precepts make for happiness here and now) 5. For the restraint of cankers belonging to this life (Much trouble id avoided by one with good moral conduct)) 6. For the destruction of cankers belonging to other world (May not arise for the well practiced) 7. For the benefit of the non-believers (who are pleased with the monk’s good conduct) 8. For the increase in number of believers (who are pleased to see Dhamma practiced) 9. For the establishment of the good dhamma (Dhamma lasts long when vinaya is well practiced) 10. For the encouragement of disciplinary behaviour (‘leading out’ to Nibbana) Buddha introduced Upajjaya (Preceptor). He is a senior monk who trains young monks, known as Saddhiviharika (shares the apartment). Both of them are advised to develop a relationship similar to a father and son relationship. The preceptor and teacher served as father and guide to the trainee monk. (Counselor and counselee relationship)
King Bimbisara was recorded to have suggested to the Buddha that the Buddhist monks should observe the ceremony of Uposatha. Patimokkha (vinaya) was recited fortnightly on uposatha on new and full moon. The recitation ensures the harmonious unity and purity of the Sangha itself. During the ceremony, the monks within the boundary met each other, exchange friendly greetings and make individual confessions, discuss with one another about the good laws (dhamma), disciplinary rules and regulations (vinaya).
Prohibitions to entry into the order
1.Incurable illnesses. Initially, the doors of admission to the sangha were opened to all. Physician Jivaka was a devoted doctor who treated all monks free. Jivaka, a reputed dermatologist, had to turn down many patients who wanted to see him as he was too busy attending on Buddha and the Sangha. They then entered the order for free medical treatment. When cured, they disrobed and reverted to lay life. Jivaka requested the Buddha not to ordain those suffering from leprosy, abscesses, eczema, consumption and epilepsy. The monks did not have time to practice as much time is spent in tending to the sick. The Sangha is not the place to look after the sick, as the objective is for Nibbana. 2.One who is handicapped from young, dumb, blind, deaf, lame, one-eyed, hands/feet amputated 3.One who is made bankrupt. 4.Vagabonds and idlers who did not wish to work and entered the order for free welfare. 5.Soldiers – (Rajabhato) who entered the order to escape from their duties of defending the country. The king bimbisara requested that soldiers should not be allowed to enter the order. 6.Without the consent of parents, monks should not be allowed to enter the order. The king Suddhodana was very much saddened when the grandson, Rahula (Buddha's son) entered the order at a young age. He requested that all seeking ordination should have their parents’ permission. 7.Young children, less than 4 years old should not be allowed to enter the Order, as their crying would be disturbing in the night. They would need their parents’ love and attention. The average accepted age to enter the order is 8-9 years old. They would have some degree of self-independence. 8.One who has committed certain crimes cannot be ordained, a. Killed: • Mother (Matughatuko) • Father (Pitughatuko) • Arahant (Arahantaghatuko) b. Raped a nun (Bhikkuni Dusaka )
Questions for higher ordination
Person has to be 20 years old before he can go for upasampada or higher ordination. 20 monks would assemble together and put questions to the young novice.
1. Are you afflicted with the following diseases: leprosy, boils, dry leprosy, consumption or fits? 2. Are you a male? (Nun order was only set up later after Buddha's stepmother joined the sangha) 3. Are you a free man? (No commitments as many still have duties to look after their wives and children) 4. Are you not a debtor? 5. Are you not a soldier? 6. Have your father and mother given their consent? 7. Are you full 20 years old? 8. Are your alms bowl and your robes in order? 9. What is your name? 10. What is your preceptor’s name?
Negative to Question one and affirmation of the rest of the questions are anticipated. As soon as the conferment of the Higher Ordination is over, the Sangha reminds him of the 4 resources (Nissaya), the 4 prohibitions (Akaraniyani) and the acts not to be resorted to.
They are reminded of:
Cattaro Nissaya (4 Requisites for monks)
1. Pindiyalopa Bhojanam nissaya pabbaja - survive by collecting alms. (food) 2. Pansukula Civaram – wear cast off rags obtained from burial grounds. (clothes) 3. Rukkhamula senasanam – abode is at the root of trees and empty places. (shelter) 4. Putimutta Bhesajja – medicine is to be urine obtained from young calves. (puti- loathsome) (medicine)
There is a bond of brotherhood to everyone in the order. This is highlighted when a monk falls sick. Monks have to tend to one another as they had ‘neither mother nor father to look after them, they themselves should see to one another’s welfare.
The Sangha is a caste-less and classless community based on democratic principles. All members have equal rights and opportunities to determine and administer affairs. All procedural acts are carried out democratically by an announcement and those who do not agree are asked to speak out. The sangha incorporates an absentee vote for the ill or disabled monk. A messenger will deliver his vote to the Sangha even when there is no postal system. The Buddhist philosophy is that there is a right to rule the community based on the consent of the subjects.
By the end of Buddha’s life, he had a very good sangha team that followed the vinaya rules. They continued to propagate the essence of Buddha’s teachings (Dhamma) and code of discipline (Vinaya). Even till now, the sangha still exists in many countries all over the world. By WHH