The Sects of the Buddhists
Davids. T. W. Rhys
The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society
We find in the Dipavamsa (Chapter V. 39-48) a list of the eighteen sects (or schools rather) into which the Buddhists in India had,in the course of the second century of the Buddhist era, been divided. In the Mahavamsa (Chapter V.) there is a similar list, evidently drawn from the same sources, but omitting (in Turnour's texts) numbers 1-7 of the older list. It is curious that precisely where these names ought to come in (at line 5), the text given by Turnour is evidently corrupt, a half-sloka at least being missing, and probably more.(1) So far as is yet known these eighteen sects are not elsewhere mentioned in Pali literature, excepting only in the commentary on the Katha Vatthu, edited by the late Professor Minayeff, for the Pali Text Society, in 1889. The book itself, composed by Moggali-putta Tissa, about 240 B.C., deals with a number of ethical points which were then matters of controversy; and it is the greatest pity that, owing to want of funds, the Pali Text Society has not yet been able to publish it. But the commentary, short as it is (only 200 pages in the journal of the Pali Test Society), gives the name of the particular sect against which certain of the arguments are directed. These data are very important. Following the list of the eighteen sects in the Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa above re ferred to is another list of six later sects, the names of which, with one exception, are derived from places, presumably the places where the sects in question took their origin. Now we
find that in a large majority (about ninety as against about forty-five) of the cases in which the commentary gives the name of the sect referred to, the names are those of these six later sects. And of the forty-five directed against the eighteen older schools, sixteen are directed against one, nineteen against another, and seven against a third (only four others of the eighteen being mentioned at all, and three of these four being referred to only once.) There is every reason to believe that the commentator's statements as to the sects against whom his author's arguments were directed are, so far as they go, correct. When we have the text before us we may be able to specify others. But we may fairly draw the conclusion that already in the time of Asoka only seven of the eighteen sects had retained any prtactical importance at all, and that of these seven only three, or perhaps four, were still vigorous and flourishing. This will be made plainer by the following table, in which I have first arranged the list given in both the Ceylon chronicles (and derived by both from the history handed down in the Maha Vihara at Anuradhapura) in such a way as to show the relationship of these eighteen Hinayana sects one to another. To each sect I have then added the pages of the commentary on the Katha Vatthu, in which it is specifically referred to by name.(1) --------------------- 1 The Maha-bodhivamsa, being edited this year for the Pali Text Society, also gives the eighteen schools of Buddhists in India. But its data are merely derived from the older Ceylon sources, and it adds nothing new. All our Ceylon information is really derived from the Mahavihara at Anuradhapura. Three of the eighteen sects have been found in inscriptions of the second and third century A.D.--The Bhadrayaniya in the Archaeological Survey of Western India," II. 85; IV. 109-111--the Cetika, ibid. IV. 115, and "Arch. Survey of Southern India," I. 100--and the Mahasamghika in the "Arch. Survey of Western India," IV. 113.
TABLE I. SECTS OF THE HINAYANA.
(A. The eighteen sects.)
5. Bhaddayanika, 58.
6. Channagarika (Dip. Chanda, and Cy On
Katha Vatthu Channa) 3.
7. Sammitiya, 42, 58, 67, 68, 97, 106, 110,
111, 112, 114, 123, 127, 129, 150, 156,
160, 161, 162. 174 (total 19).
3. Mahigsasaka, 60, 90, 92, 111, 123, 160, 173, 181.
8. Sabbatthivada (Dip. Sabbattha-), 43, 58, 132.
10. Kassapika, 50.
13. Mahasangitikaraka = Mahasamghika, 123-129, 131, 135,
136, 147, 152, 154, 158, 176, 189, 190 (total 16).
14. Gokulika, 58.
16. Bahussutaka = Bahulika.
All these 18 arose in 100-200 A.B. (Dip. 5.
53=Mah. 5. 8).
1 This school was very probably the source of the schools of the Eastern and Western Caves at Dhanakataka (the Pubba- and Apara-selika of Table I. (B.)) as its name occurs once on the Amaravati Tope in the description of one of the donors, a member of the order resident in one or other of these mountain Viharas.
TABLE I. HINAYANA (continued).
(B. Later sects in India.)
2-5. Andhaka, 52, 58, 59, 60, 62, 63, 65, 67, 68,
71, 78, 79, 80, 81, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 89,
92, 93, 101, 102, 103, 105, 109, 110, 111,
115, 117, 118, 121, 122, 130, 133, 144, 149,
150, 151, 156, 161, 162, 163, 172, 173, 174,
177, 180, 184, 185, 189, 190, 193, 197, 198
2. Rajagirika, 1, 94-99, 140, 154, 163, 164.
3. Siddhatthika, 94-99, 163. 164.
4. Pubbaselika, 54, 56, 90, 106, 108, 109, 112, 114. Andhaka
5. Aparaselika, 54, 55, 56, 143, 148, 159, 187.
6. Vadariya (so in Mah. The Dip. 5. 54, has Aparo
Rajagiriko, and the Cy on the Katha. Vatthu, p.5,
calls them Vajariya and Vajiriya).
(C. Later sects in Ceylon.)
1. Dhammaruciya (B.C. 90).
2. Sagaliya (A.D. 251).
3. Dathavedhaka (A.D. 601).
But the commentator mentions also five sects with names not occurring in Table I. I give these sects, therefore, in a separate table, again adding all the pages in which they are referred to.
1. Uttarapathaka, 73, 81, 82, 92, 105, 117, 118,
119, 132, 137, 139, 141, 144, 145, 148, 149, 151,
160, 170, 172, 177, 179, 180, 183, 188, 191, 193,
194, 195, 197, 198 (total 34).
2. Vibhajjavadino, 6 (=Thera-vadino).
3. Vetulyaka, 167, 171, 197.
4. Sunnatavada, 167.
5. Hetuvada, 153, 154, 156, 158, 166, 181, 184, 198.
We can now, therefore, in a third table, give the names of the sects which are, so far, known to have been considered as of real practical importance in the time of Asoka, or rather when the Katha Vatthu was composed.
SECTS IN ASOKA'S TIME.
1. Thera-vadino (=Vibhajja-vadino), the old
school, to which Moggaliputta Tissa himself
and the authors of the Ceylon commentaries,
2. Sammitiya (derived from the above, but existing
only on the Continent).
3. Mahimsasaka, with their subdivision, the
5-8. The Andhra sects, with four subdivisons. (see
Table I. B.).
9. The Mahasamghika.
10. The Uttarapathaka.
It will not be possible till we get the text of the Katha Vatthu to show the exact nature of the differences by which these sects were distinguished. But it is already clear from the commentary, which shows the nature of the questions at issue, that they one and all looked upon Arahatship (not Bodisatship) as the ideal of a good Buddhist, and were really much alike in essentials, not differing more than the various sects of Protestants do to-day. The above results are entirely confirmed by such other evidence of value as is accessible to us. 'We have two important Hinayana books in Sanskrit, the Divyavadana and the Mahavastu, accessible to scholars in critical editions. The former mentions no sects, and though its ethical teach ing, as is natural in a story-book, is put in the background, it contains very little that is contradictory to the older teaching. The latter purports to belong (see vol. i. p. 2, line 13) to the Lokottaravadins, a sect of the Mahasamghika (who are supposed to have been the furthest removed from the school of the Theras). But there is very little in its teaching which could not have been developed from the Thera-vada; and it also differs from the Pali texts in the lower general tone--in the prominence given to legendary matter, and in the consequent inattention to ethical points, and the details of Arahatship--rather than by the enunciation of new and divergent doctrines. We find a similar confirmation of our Katha Vatthu commentator if we look at the names of the sects referred to by the Chinese Buddhist pilgrims. These are shown in the following table.
SECTS MENTIONED BY FA HIAN AND
A. By Fa Hian.
In Lob and Karaschar the Hinayana, Ch. 2.
,, Khoten . . . . . ,, Mahayana, Ch. 3.
,, the Dard Country. ,, Hinayana, Ch. 6.
,, Udyana. . . . ,, Hinayana, Ch. 8.
,, Panjab. . . . ,, both, Ch. 14, 15.
,, Kanauj. . . . . ,, Hinayana, Ch. 18.
,, the Middle Country.,, 96 sects, Ch. 20 (apparently
,, Kosambi. . . . ,, Hinayana, Ch. 34.
,, Patna. . . . . ,, Mahasamghika, Ch. 36.
,, India. . . . . ,, 18 sects, Ch. 36.
,, Patna (and China) .,, Sabbatthi-vada, Ch. 36.
,, Ceylon . . . . . ,, Mahimsasaka, Ch. 40.
B. By Yuan Thsang.
In Gaz . . . . . . the Sabbatthivada, 1. 49 (trans.
,, Bamiyan . . . . . ,, Lokottaravadino, 1. 50.
,, Kapisa . . . . . ,, mostly Mahayana, 1. 55.
,, India. . . . . ,, 18 schools (apparently both
Hina- and Maha-yana!)
,, Gandhara . . . . ,, Hina-yana, 1. 104.
,, Po-lu-sha, . . . . ,, Hina-yana, 1. 112.
,, Udyana . . . . ,, Maha-yana, 1. 120, and also
Nos. 3, 8, 9, 10, 13, of
Table I. (A), 1. 121.
,, Takshasila . . . . ,, Mahayana, 1. 137.
,, Kashmir . . . . ,, Mahasamghika, 1. 162.
,, Sagala . . . . . . ,, Hinayana, 1. 172.
,, Kuluta . . . . . ,, Mahayana, 1. 177.
,, ? . . . . . ,, Hinayana, 1. 179.
,, Mathura . . . . ,, both, 1. 180.
,, Sthanesvara . . . ,, Hinayana, 1. 184.
,, Srughna. . . . ,, Hinayana, 1. 187.
In Rohilkund .... the Hinayana (Sabbatthivadino)
1. 190, 192, 196.
,, Govisana . . . . ,, Hinayana, 1. 200.
,, Pi-lo-shan-na. . . ,, Mahayapa, 1. 201.
,, Ahikshetra. . . ,, Sammitiya, 1. 200.
,, Kapitha. . . . ,, Sammitiya, 1. 102.
,, Kanauj . . . . ,, both H. and M., 1. 207.
,, Navadevakula. . . .,, Sabbatthivadino, 1. 224.
,, Audh . . . . ,, both, 1. 225.
,, Hayamukha . . . . ,, Sammitiya, 1. 230.
,, Prayaga . . . . ,, Hinayana, 1. 231.
,, Kosambi . . . . ,, Hinayana, 1. 235.
,, Visakha . . . . ,, Sammitiya, 1. 239-40.
,, Sravasti . . . . ,, Sammitiya, 2. 2.
,, Kapilavastu . . . . ,, Sammitiya, 2. 14.
,, Benares . . . . ,, Sammitiya, 2. 44, 45.
,, Ghazipur . . . . ,, Hinayapa, 2. 61.
,, Mahasala . . . . ,, Mahayana, 2. 65.
,, Svetapura (?). . . .,, Mahayana, 2. 75.
,, Vajjians . . . . ,, both, 2. 78.
,, Nepal . . . . ,, both, 2. 81.
,, Magadha . . . . ,, Mahayana, 2. 82.
,, ,, . . . . ,, both, 2, 103, 104.
,, Gaya . . . . ,, Mahayana of the Sthavira
School, 2. 133.
,, Pigeon Vihara . . ,, Sabbatthivada, 2. 182.
,, Mongir . . . . ,, Sammitiya, 2. 186.
,, Campa . . . . ,, Hinayana, 2. 192.
,, Po-chi-po Vihara . ,, Mahayana, 2. 195.
,, Pundra . . . . ,, both, 2. 195.
,, Bengal . . . . ,, Sthavira, 2. 199.
,, Bhagalpur . . . . ,, Sammitiya, 2. 201.
,, Orissa . . . . ,, Mahayana, 2. 204.
,, Kalinga . . . . ,, Sthavira school, 2. 208.
,, Kosala . . . . ,, Mahayana, 2. 210.
,, Dhanakataka . . . . ,, Mahayana, 2. 221. (Here
are the Pubbasela and
In Kancipura . . . . the Sthavira, 2. 229.
,, Ceylon . . . . ,, Sthavira, 2. 247.
,, Konkana . . . . ,, both, 2. 254.
,, Mahrattas . . . ,, both, 2. 257.
,, Baroach . . . . ,, Sthavira, 2. 260.
,, Malva . . . . ,, Sammitiya, 2. 261.
,, Kachch . . . . ,, Hinayana & Mahayana, 2. 266.
,, Valabhi . . . . ,, Sammitya, 2. 266.
,, Surat . . . . ,, Sthavira, 2. 269.
,, Gurjara . . . . ,, Sabbatthivada, 2. 270.
,, Ujjen . . . . ,, both, 2. 270.
,, N. Sindh . . . . ,, Sammitiya, 2. 272.
,, Parvata (Po-fa-to) . ,, both, 2. 275.
,, Kurachi (?) . . . ,, Samittiya, 2. 276.
,, Lang-kia-lo . . . ,, both, 2. 277.
,, Persia . . . ,, Sabbatthivada, 2. 278.
,, Pi-to-shi-lo . . ,, Sammitiya, 2. 279.
,, O-fan-cha . . . ,, Sammitiya, 2, 280.
,, Fa-la-na . . . ,, Mahayana, 2. 281.
,, Ghazni . . . . ,, Mahayana, 2. 284.
,, Hwoh . . . . ,, both, 2. 288.
,, Och . . . . ,, Sabbatthivada, 2. 304.
,, Kashgar . . . . ,, Sbbatthivada, 2. 307.
,, Cho-kiu-kia . . . ,, Mahayana, 2. 308.
,, Khoten . . . . ,, Mahayana, 2. 309.
On these lists it may be noted that Fa Hian knows of the list of eighteen Hinayana sects (see Ch. XXXVI.); but he mentions by name only three; and those three are precisely those three of the eighteen which, in our Table No. 1, are shown to have been, together with the Sammitiya, the most important in Asoka's time. Further, Fah Hian only knows of one other sect, the Mahayanists, and of them only in Khoten and the Panjab. Similarly the Katha Vatthu mentions only one other sect as at all of equal importance with those just referred to; and that sect is that of the "Northerners," the Uttarapathaka. The undesigned coincidence between the two authors is as complete as it is striking.
Yuan Thsang goes into much greater detail, but his statements are quite consistent with those of the earlier authors. He finds the Mahasamghika only in Kashmir, and there only in small numbers (100), and a subdivision of that school, that is the Lokottara-vadins, only in Bamiyan. Further down on the continent that school seems, in his time, to have passed over bodily to the Mahayanists. But the Hinayanists are still much the more widely distributed, and also more numerous; and of their subdivisions it is precisely those mentioned as important by the earlier writers who recur in Yuan Thsang. He also in most cases gives an estimate of the actual number of Bhikshus in each country. But before discussing these numbers it is necessary to notice the statement, astounding at first sight, that the 20, 000 Bhikshus in Ceylon were then principally Mahayanists. Yuan Thsang admits that the Ceylonese were originally Hinaynists, but he explains the change by a division of opinion which took place between the Bhikshus resident at the capital, in the Maha Vihara, and in the Abhayagiri Vihara (the latter drifting towards the Mahayana). This division he dates about 200 years after Mahinda's time, that is to say, shortly before the Christian era. He is referring evidently to the same schism as that described in the commentary on the Mahavamsa (Turnour, p. 53)), which is there dated about 90 B.C., and is said to have arisen between the residents at these two great Viharas. As the whole of the voluminous Pali literature of Ceylon in the fourth, fifth, sixth, and later centuries, is written entirely from the Thera- vada standpoint, it is clear that Yuan Thsang, who did not himself visit Ceyion, either misunderstood or was misinformed as to the side on which the preponderance, in his time, lay. And when he adds that the particular school of the Mahayanists to which the Ceylonese Buddhists belonged was the Sthavira or Thera school, it can scarcely be doubted that he (or his informant) had in view the Theravada school to which we know the Ceylonese almost ex clusively adhered. A Thera school of the Mahayanists has not been found mentioned in any other author, and the Sthavira school is elsewhere referred to as identical with the Thera-vada, the most fundamentally Hinayanist of all the sects. Taking this to be so, it will be of value to arrange in another table, according to sects, the data given by Yuan Thsang, adding the numbers of the Bhikshus where he gives numbers.
NUMBERS GIVEN BY YUAN THSANG.
1. Sthavira sect (Thera-vadino).
In Gaya 1000 (in a Vihara founded by
a Ceylon king).
,, East Bengal 2000
,, Kalinga 500
,, Kancipura 10,000
,, Ceylon 20,000
,, Bharukaccha 300
,, Surattha 3000
2. Sammitiya (No. 7 of Table I.).
In Ahikshetra 1000
,, Sankassa 100
,, Hayamukha 1000
,, Visakha 3000
,, Savatthi few
,, Kapila-vatthu 30 (text has 3000)
3. Sabbatthivadino (No. 8 in Table I.)
In Balk 200
,, Ma-ti-pu-lo (Rohilkund) 800
,, Pigeon Vihara 200
,, Kanauj 500
,, Gurjara 100
,, Persia several hundred
,, Och several hundred
,, Kashgar 10,000
More than 12,000
4. Lokottaravadino (probably=No. 14 of Table I. A.).
In Bamiyan 1000
5. Hinayana, without mention of any one of the
In Sagala 100
,, Sthanesvara 700
,, Srughna 1000
,, Govisana, 100
,, Kosambi 300
,, Ghazipur (near Benares) 1000
,, Campa 200
In Kapisa (Hindukush) 6000
,, Uyyana (so at 1. 120. But the schools
are given, p. 121, and they all
belong to the Hinayana !)
,, Kuluta (on the Upper Biyas) 1000
,, Pi-lo-shan-na 500
,, Ti-lo-shia-kia (20m. W. of Nalanda)1000
,, Po-chi-po Khara 700
,, Orissa 10,000
,, South Kosala 10,000
,, Dhanakataka 1000
,, Fa-la-na 300
,, Ghazni 1000
,, Cho-kiu-kia 500
,, Khoten 1000
7. Bhikshus who study both Hina- and Maha-yana.
In Mathura (on the Jumna) 2000
,, Kanauj 10,000
,, Audh 3000
,, Vajjians 1000
,, Nepal 2000
,, Magadha 10,000
,, Pundra 3000
,, Konkana 10,000
,, Mahrattas 5000
,, Ujjen 300
,, Po-fa-to 1000
,, Lang-kia-lo 6000
,, Hwoh 200
,, Och 1000
Totals of above.
Sthavira 36,800 ¿
Sammitiya 43,630 ³
Sabbatthivadino 12,000 96,430
Lokottaravadino 1000 ³
(No name) 3400Ù
Both Hina- and Mahayana 54,500
(Total numbers of the Order) 182,930
These numbers are exclusive of those, not many cases, where it is said there were 'few' at any place. They show that Yuan Thsang estimated the Buddhist Bhikshus in India and the adjacent countries to the N.W. towards the close of the seventh century of our era at less than two hundred thousand. And further that, in his opinion, about three- fourths of them studied at that time what he called the 'Little Vehicle,' and about one-fourth of them what he called the 'Great Vehicle.'
Besides the above statements, we have others from Tibetan books of the tenth and following centuries, which will be of value, inasmuch as they attempt to give not only the genealogy of the sects (their relation to one another), but also a summary of their special doctrines. Mr. Rockhill, to whom we owe the best existing summary of these statements,(1) says of these as to doctrine that " the theories of the different schools are unfortunately given... so concisely that it is a difficult, if not an impossible task, to give a satisfactory translation of them." And the statements as to the origin of the sects are so confused, and even contradictory, that very little can be made out of them. Taranatha (of the seventeenth century) gives another account of the origin of the sects drawn principally from the same Tibetan sources as Mr. Rockhill summarises at greater length (Taranatha, pp. 270-273). It is plain that all these Tibetan data rest upon earlier Sanskrit summaries, and go back eventually to a tradition which, when it is fully known, will probably confirm, and even perhaps add to, the data derived from the other sources.(2) I would add that in an essay in the Asiatic Researches (Vol. XVI. pp.424 fol., written in 1828), Mr. Hodgson has given us a somewhat extended summary of four later schools in Nepaul, none of which are even mentioned in the foregoing works. These are:
1. The Svabhavika.
2. The Aisvarika.
3. The Karmika.
4. The Yatnika
They are all probably Mahayanist, and if so are
the only subdivisions of that school known to us by
Hodgson does not refer to any Sanskrit authority, and is apparently quoting the verbal statements of a Nepal pandit. And, notwithstanding the lapse of time, the sects thus named have not yet been found in any Buddhist author. Finally we have the following list of Buddhist schools known to Sayana-Madhava, in the fourteenth century A.D. in South India.(1)
1. The Vaibhashika.
2. The Yogacara.
3. The Sautrantika.
4. The Madhyamika
The conclusion I would venture to draw is that our best authorities are really at harmony; and that the history of the Buddhist sects is not the confused and hopeless muddle it has been often supposed to be, but only awaits the publication of the texts, and especially of the Katha Vatthu, to be capable of reconstruction in an intelligible and fairly satisfactory way.
1 Since the above was written I find that the missing
passage has actually been found by Batuwan Tudawa.
It contains exactly what we find in the Dipavamsa.
Pali Text Society, also gives the eighteen schools
of Buddhists in India. But its data are merely
derived from the older Ceylon sources, and it adds
All our Ceylon information is really derived from the
Mahavihara at Anuradhapura.
Three of the eighteen sects have been found in
inscriptions of the second and third century
A.D.--The Bhadrayaniya in the Archaeological
Survey of Western India," II. 85; IV. 109-111--the
Cetika, ibid. IV. 115, and "Arch. Survey of
Southern India," I. 100--and the Mahasamghika in
the "Arch. Survey of Western India," IV. 113.
1 This school was very probably the source of the
schools of the Eastern and Western Caves at
Dhanakataka (the Pubba- and Apara-selika of Table
I. (B.)) as its name occurs once on the Amaravati
Tope in the description of one of the donors, a
member of the order resident in one or other of
these mountain Viharas.