The background to the Second Council
A hundred years after the First Council, a second major gathering was held in the Buddhist community during King Kalasoka, known as the Second Council. Unlike behind the First Council, it was disagreement over regulations that led to the Second Council Convention.
A group of “liberal” bhiksus of the Vajji tribe from the affluent city of Vaishali presented a new interpretation of the “Ten Commandments”, which were the basic rules of discipline for the bhiksus in the Sangha order, and therefore asked for relaxation of the socio-economic changes in the order to encounter society over a hundred years after Shakyamuni’s death. They found that some strict rules were impractical, so they suggested that, for example, bhiksus be allowed to
- Store salt
- after lunch to eat
- to have a few drinks
- To accept gifts of gold and silver and money alms
- and ETC.
Some Vajji Bhiksus put golden alms bowls in the street and asked people to donate money for their merits and virtues.
An elderly bhiksu yasas reprimanded the “illegal” acts but was attacked by the local vajji bhiksus and asked to resign. As the problem became acute and serious, a council was called upon to discuss the meaning of Vinaya and to examine the validity of the new interpretation of the Ten Commandments.
The Vaishali Conventions
Most of the elder bhiksu from all over India came to meet in a garden in Vaishali city. Five bhiksus were elected as representatives. In the congregation, 700 bhiksus were selected to perform a group recitation of the sutras and vinaya, as Mahakashyapa had done at the time of the First Council. The Second Council was also known as the “Assembly of 700 Bhiksus”.
The Vajji Bhiksu’s proposals were ultimately rejected by the elders of the order. The new interpretation was seen as “Ten Illegal Things”. After the Vajji Bhiksus were rejected in the Second Council, they gathered a group of 10,000 disciples and held a council of their own called the “Great Group Recitation.” At about this time, the Buddhist Order appears to have split into two main divisions, one as Sthavira, “Members of the Elders,” and the other as Mahasanghika, “Members of the Great Order”.
The origin of the schism
Early Buddhism existed in the form of several fairly autonomous groups in India, partly because of the difficulties in communicating between the groups at the time, and mostly because of the lesson from the last words of Shakyamuni Buddha.
In the Nirvana Sutra, Shakyamuni had no attempt to maintain an order as a single unitary order. He asked the disciples to adhere to the Dharma, not just one person. He told the disciples that the rules were their master after his death. It is not surprising, therefore, that a hundred years later subtle differences in doctrine and ritual should have emerged between these different Buddhist groups.
Under the influence of the political and religious environment of the time, the older bhiksus treated themselves as a highly disciplined class that stood out from the lay community and carried out special religious practices for the purpose of their own enlightenment. They emphasized the omnipotence of the rules of discipline that the rules laid down by Shakyamuni for the order should be followed without the slightest deviation.
However, the Vajji Bhiksus denied and stressed that the original intent of Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings should be allowed to all people in society (lay community), not just a particular class of people (monastic community). They argued that it should be permissible to adapt to the socio-economic changes and the customs and practices of a particular region in which one preached or lived as long as there was no violation of the main principles and regulations of Buddhism. They believed that if the disciples followed the most important principles such as: B. the Four Noble Truths, remained faithful and devoted to threefold formation (i.e. Trisiksa), minor deviations and deviations in observance of the disciplinary rules should be accepted. Given the relatively progressive and cosmopolitan atmosphere in Vaishali (the home of the famous lay believer Vimalakirti), it is natural for a new movement to emerge among members of the Buddhist community there to break the “outdated” rules.
With the schism after the Second Council, the process of division continued until there were eighteen sects, ten of which belonged to the Sthavira and eight to the Mahasanghika. Buddhism had entered a time of sectarianism.
Restoring the original meaning of Buddhism
Historically, the schism was an inevitable result in the development of Buddhism. On the surface, the Sthivara bhiksus appear to be the advocates of Orthodoxy and the Mahasanghika bhiksus the heretics. Ordinarily, the Sthivara appeared to be the dogmatists and the Mahasanghika the revisionists.
The question of greatest concern is whether these sects have preserved the true spirit of Shakyamuni’s teachings. In Buddhism, all reform movements have the spirit to strive to return to the fundamentals of belief and to restore the original meaning.
In accordance with Buddhist teaching on the Middle Way, each extreme is a different way of studying Buddhism. A strong and healthy monastic order is necessary in Buddhism. However, if it is established on the basis of the rejection of the lay community, it is certainly contrary to the original meaning of Buddhism. On the other hand, Buddhism needs broad and popular support in the lay community. However, if it is not directed by the great masters who are enlightened through serious religious practices, it is sure to deviate from the original meaning of Buddhism as well.
Shakyamuni Buddha, who preached the Dharma in different ways, depends on the background and ability of the people he addressed to understand it. Different standards in the rules of discipline are obviously required for different groups of people within the Buddha community. In different periods of time one Buddhist sect may be more attractive to the other. The existence of the development and extinction of a Buddhist sect has its conditions in accordance with the law of causal conditions. Indeed, the fate of Buddhism rests on the ability to restore the basic principles of the teachings and apply them correctly in practice.
The dharmas declared by a sect are just one of many, many ways to attain Buddhahood. The ultimate truth, that is, the nature of Buddhist Dharma, is beyond thought and words, but can be experienced through self-certification. This is the profound teaching of a Buddha vehicle.
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