The Pali Canon

  • Origins:
  • First Council c. 483 BCE at Rajarha
  • 500 monks gathered to agree on the Buddha's teachings and to codify monastic rules.
  • Ananda the buddha's close attendant recited all the 'remembered words'
  • These were approved by the sanha who passed them on orally for many centuries until they were codified to the form of the Sutras.
  • Second Countil at Vasali
  • schism appears between Theravadins and Mahayanists.
  • Theravada school - smaller group becomes known as Hinayana (lesser vehicle)
  • Mahasangha becomes the Mahayana (greater vehicle)
  • Third Council at Patna mid 3rd Century BCE
  • Called by Emperor Asoka who encouraged the translation of the Buddhist Canon into 3 great lanuage collections.
    • 1. Pali Tipitaka - contrains scripture of Theravada
    • 2. Chinese Tipitaka - on which Japanese is based.
    • 3. The Tibetan Kanjur and Tanjur
  • Fourth Council
  • eventually the Buddha's teachings were written down in the 1st Century BCE in Sri Lanka after ebingpassed on thorugh word of mouth for four centuries.
  • Is the Canon the actual word of the Buddha?
  • Early disciples wer concerned with the essential seeds rather than the exact words of the Buddha. They felt they had the liberty to expand, vary and embelish the expression.
  • School of Elders (Theravada) - conservative approach to the canon e.g. only remembered words should be included, but these could be developed.
  • The Abhidharma is not attributed to the words of the BUddha but is said to draw out seed of the Buddha's teaching.
    • As a source of authority
    • Not divine revelation. Not a book religoun. The Buddha did not write his teaching down.
    • A record of the Buddha's teaching: based on his enlightenment experience (in Bodh Gaya) to reveal the dharma (eternal truth)
  • Reasons for Schism in sangha
  • Disagreements over monastic discipline and doctrine.
  • Recent Scholarship - the reformers 'stharviradins' demanded mroe monastic rigour and unity e.g. dress and behaviour
  • Important as the 'sthaviravadins' were responsible for the spread of Buddhism in Western India.
  • Conze describes the Mahasanghakas as 'taking the side of the people against the saints; thus becoming the channel through which popular aspirations entered into Buddhism'
  • Differing philosophy the Mahasanghikas tended to play on the human aspects of the Buddha to promote the concept of his being the magical manifestation of a tancendental principle i.e Dharma body.
  • The Structure of the Pali Canon: The Pali Canon is divided into 3 baskets.
  • The Vinaya Pitaka
  • The first basket of the Pali Canon it is the textual framework upon which the monastic community (sangha) is built. The several hundred regulations are concerned with basic morality but include details on robe making, monk


No comments have yet been made