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The Buddhist Archives of Dr. Alexander Berzin

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The Three Buddhist Councils in India

Alexander Berzin
Klappenberg, Austria, March 2010

Unedited Transcript
Listen to the audio version of this page (0:42 hours)

Interpretable and Definitive Teachings

So, last hour we were speaking about how to classify the Buddha’s teachings. And one more thing that I need to mention, in terms of that, is another scheme which is used by the Mahayana, not the Hinayana schools, which is the division into what’s called “interpretable” and “definitive” teachings.

  • The interpretable ones are not to be taken literally, but need interpretation; they’re leading to a deeper meaning.

  • The definitive teachings are to be understood as where the interpretable ones are leading to; in other words, what is to be taken literally.

The Hinayana schools considered everything that Buddha taught to be taken literally – but, mind you, they're just referring to their own scriptures as being what can be taken literally. But within the Mahayana, each of the schools of tenets (so the Chittamatra and the Madhyamaka) is going to have their own understanding of which teachings are interpretable and which ones are definitive. Within Madhyamaka there are two divisions, Svatantrika and Prasangika, and they also have their own versions of which ones are interpretable and which ones are definitive.

Also you should be aware that there are four major traditions of Buddhism in Tibet, and they each have their own version, their own interpretation, of each of these four Indian Buddhist philosophical systems – or five, if you want to count Svatantrika and Prasangika as separate. And if that’s not complicated enough, even within some of these Tibetan schools different authors will have different opinions, not just about which teachings are interpretable or definitive, but about many, many different points.

And even if that’s not complicated enough, some authors changed their minds at different times in their life, and wrote different things in their earlier writings than in their later writings. And so one must not be surprised by any of these things. I always love this gesture: you shouldn’t be like a rabbit caught in the headlights of a car. You know, the ears go up, “Aaahhh! Oh dear. Here’s yet another difference, another thing that is different!” There’s an unbelievable amount of diversity here.

History and the Buddhist Way of Thinking

One of my teachers in India, Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey (not related to Geshe Tenzin Dhargyey here; Dhargyey is just the name of the area in Tibet where they come from) – he pointed out something very, very nice about “faults” that we have as Westerners in approaching this material. He said that it’s very important to just understand one system by itself before going on to the other ones. Actually I should modify that: some of us are capable of studying many things at the same time. That’s not the problem. The problem is comparison.

He said that Westerners tend to compare (or want to compare) two things, neither of which they understand very well. So we start to study a little bit about Buddhism and then automatically you start to ask, “Well, how is that different from Hinduism?” And we don’t know anything about Hinduism, or we know just something very superficial about it. Or “How is that like Jungian psychology?” And you don’t really understand anything Jungian psychology either. So he said just try to understand something within its own context, and only when you understand two systems extremely well does any comparison make sense. So we have to watch out when we are presented with all these different forms of Buddhism, all these different interpretations, not to get bewildered by trying to compare them on the very, very beginning level, when we really don’t understand them, because it’s just going to be confusing.

But when we look at Buddhist history, then we're looking at it from a Western point of view. I mean the Indians and Tibetans are not terribly interested in history; one of my Indian friends said it rather strongly, he said, “Indians don’t even believe in history.” For most Indians, history is the epics: Mahabharata, of Krishna and the gods, and so on. And they have all these fights in India about… the god Krishna – was he actually born at this place or that place? I mean, this is their idea of history. But dates and so on? They couldn’t care less. The fights between the gods, this is history.

What Is History?

So, again, history: that is a way of basically looking at various themes throughout time and seeing some sort of development. So, again, what is it? It is a way of organizing material, isn’t it? Trying to make sense out of what happened over time. One of my schoolmates, when I was at college, wrote a paper which was very interesting. He put it in very complicated language, I'll explain it though, he said, “If history obtains, man has attended it”, which most people wouldn’t even understand that English sentence. He’s very pretentious. But what it means is if history existed as a thing all by itself, then man was sort of just a bystander, watching it, and attending it, like a sports event. But history doesn’t exist like that – there it is, a thing. It’s just a way that people try to organize material over a period of time. We call that a “mental construct” in Buddhist terminology.

This is actually a very interesting point of view. It gets into our whole discussion of projections. For instance, the revolution, the Russian Revolution. Did it happen? Yes. What actually happened? There were a lot of people, and every person from moment to moment experienced something different. Did they experience “The Revolution” that was sort of sitting there like an elephant and everybody was sort of watching it? What was the revolution? So it is those, afterwards, who try to make sense of so many different people’s different experiences, and they put it together in some sort of mental synthesis (we will get that in our discussion of metaphysics), and come up with history. And different so-called historians will organize it in different ways, just as we saw that you can organize the Buddhist material in many different ways.

It’s like, for instance, in psychology. There are so many different schools of psychology. Well, what is it talking about? Lots of different people experiencing many, many different things that change from moment to moment. And somebody comes up with some sort of theory, an organizational scheme, and you have a psychological theory that explains it. Well, there are many, many other systems that could organize exactly the same material.

So then a deep philosophical question arises: what actually happened? Did anything happen? Well of course something happened, but is it just a mental construct that puts it together in a synthesis of "here’s the history?" Or what is it? You see, what I’m trying to do with all these topics, aside from speaking a little bit about the relevance and not just giving you information, is also to introduce you to the Buddhist analytical way of looking at things. What is the Buddhist way of thinking – this is very important to try to understand.

Okay, so we have the development of Buddhism in India, spread around the world (we’ll speak about that later) – spread around the Asian world, and now spreading around the whole world. And one can, how shall we say… Remember I mentioned the way that the Tibetans study these four schools of Indian Buddhism, and everybody having different opinions of it? But the way that they study it is as a graded course, that one [level] leads to another in terms of the understanding, in terms of how you get deeper and deeper insights, more and more subtle deconstructions of our false view of reality. And so here is a way of organizing material for the purpose of gaining liberation and enlightenment. This is the Buddhist aim, always. You see, if these organizational schemes are merely mental constructs, then they are mentally constructed by someone (or a group of people) for a purpose, like different psychology theories are put together for the purpose of helping patients. So we can organize the material of the Buddhist teachings also according to a logical development of ideas. In other words, you have the beginning of a concept of a certain teaching, and then there’s a further development or expansion of it, and then a further elaboration, and so on. And we will call that the history of Buddhism.

So this is something that we, in our Western way of thinking, are very concerned about. We like that very much in terms of how things develop, so-called progress. It’s based on our concept of linear time (which is also culturally specific, by the way). So does this give us useful information to see how ideas developed over time? Sure! Are Tibetans or Indians interested in this? No way, not at all. It is irrelevant to them. They don’t believe in history, remember? So is our Western historical analysis more valid than the Indian and Tibetan one? The Buddha taught everything and simultaneously in all sorts of different realms and so on. And the whole thing of dividing it according to time – fairly irrelevant. I mean, well, you can divide the three turnings of the wheel of Dharma, the three transmissions, but we don’t really care about the dates.

What is the importance of what I'm saying? The importance is not to adopt an arrogant academic point of view, which is that only the history is true, and that it was later people who developed all these ideas, and that isn’t really what Buddhism was – Buddhism is only what Buddha taught, that’s the only thing that’s authentic. That, from a Buddhist point of view, is arrogant. That’s just saying, “My way of conceptualizing is correct. Your way is stupid.” So is it useful to study or to construct a line of development of ideas? For instance, the concept of what a Buddha is, over a period of time, and to see an idea develop in so-called progress. Or you could look at it as degeneration. There are two ways of labeling that time sequence. Actually, either way is equally valid, isn’t it? You could see it as a progress or you could see it as a degeneration, because that would be how it makes sense within the context of a certain way of thinking. Or you could see it as just people making it up, and to gain legitimacy they call this “this is what Buddha really meant” – remember, interpretable and definitive. So is it useful – that was really my question – to have a historical perspective?

And I would then ask the question (I don’t have an answer to it) of what’s the purpose of a history, of constructing a history of the development of some ideas? I think the only thing we can say is that for our way of thinking, which is very linear, it helps us to make sense of the material. If it does that, fine; but don’t be judgmental about it, is what I'm saying. From a Buddhist point of view, you can’t say, “But that is what’s far more valid than some of the Buddhist ways of understanding how you organize the material.” It just is useful for us within our own conceptual framework. And very nice. Why not? No problem.

By the way, linear time – that’s talking about time has a beginning, either it was created by a higher being or it started with a big bang, and it will come to an end. That's linear time, with the destruction of the universe, the big crunch or however the universe will end, and time will end. That’s linear time. From a Buddhist point of view there’s no beginning, no end. There will be another big bang. There will be another big crunch or expansion to nothing. It just goes on and on and on and on. That’s not linear.

This underlines, I think, one of the benefits of studying this Buddhist material, because what it does is it helps us to identify what are our culturally specific ways of thinking. This word “specific” is important here. It is specific, it’s only our culture that thinks this way. So what is it that is culturally specific, and to understand that there are really a lot of other ways of looking at the universe and our experience. Often, because we are only familiar with our own viewpoint, we don’t even consider the possibility that there’s another way of looking at the universe, let alone that it could be equally valid. So studying something as different as the Buddhist way of thinking helps us to identify these projections that we have of ways of organizing material. One truth, progression or degeneration, and so on – these are ways of understanding that are mentally constructed. They are not necessarily universal or existing “out there,” as The Truth.

And the Chittamatra point of view: it’s how it appears to us. It appears to other people in a different way, other cultures in a different way. Just as in family therapy, how it appears to the mother, or how it appears to the father, or to the children – they are different appearances. When we open up our minds to consider that there are other ways of organizing material and understanding it, for various different purposes, then we have so many other tools that we can use for dealing with our everyday problems because we can see, well, maybe I’m just looking at it from a way that I have been conditioned by my culture. And, hey, I can look at it another way and maybe find a better solution. Or maybe I can put together these different viewpoints and come up with yet another synthesis, mental synthesis. It’s very helpful.

But just because we’ve been conditioned by our culture to think in a certain way, again there’s no reason to be judgmental about that. Fine, okay, I have grown up in a context. Nobody exists out of a context. So is it limited? Well, it depends on the connotation of that word “limited.” But there are other ways of looking at things. This is the point. Not to be judgmental about ours being superior or ours being inferior, or others’ being superior or inferior – just different. And all give helpful ways of understanding.

After Buddha's Death

So with that we turn to our history, the Western idea of history. Now after Buddha passed away, then obviously his disciples had to deal with all this vast amount of material that Buddha taught. None of it was written down. Now again I’m sorry to say this, but there are different versions of what happened according to different schools, different authors, within the Buddhist world. Well, come on, that is just natural isn’t it? That different people remember different things and tell their stories, their version, to their students or their children, and it goes on and on. So you get different versions of what happened, so no reason to complain, "Oh I want it to be just one thing, what’s the one truth?"

What seems to have taken place is that the main disciples said they were all arhats. Were they really all arhats, liberated beings, five hundred of them? How do we know? We have no idea. Anyway, it says five hundred arhats came together and they decided that they would recite from memory – they have phenomenal memories, if you can believe that – and would recite word for word what Buddha taught.

I think what’s very important to remember is that nothing was written down from Buddha’s teachings for four hundred years, approximately, after he passed away, and that was just the version that appeared in Pali of this Theravada school. The other versions were written even further down in the timeline. This is why Shantideva said: if you question the accuracy of us remembering what was said, then we can question the accuracy of what you remember. How do you know that these people remembered everything word for word? This is an enormous amount of material. This is not unique to Buddhism. In many of the world religions nothing was written down at the time of the founder of that religion, and things were remembered and only written down later.

Written Language and Memorizing

That gets into the whole discussion of the so-called history of the written language. Why would you develop written language? It was primarily developed, according to many researchers, for military purposes – you wanted to send some order or something like that to another part of your army – or for administrative purposes. In the beginning, particularly in India, written language was never used for philosophical matters or spiritual matters, only for practical purposes – merchants writing down what they sold or how much it cost.

So when we start to question, well, could these people really remember so much, then we can look at the Tibetans nowadays. Tibetans memorize, they memorize all the texts and they recite them, and they memorize thousands of pages of text and they’re able to recite them. The best example is His Holiness the Dalai Lama; it’s unbelievable how much he has memorized and can just quote at any time from any place. So it’s not so outrageous to imagine that people who did not have books, and didn’t even have the concept of books, the only way that they could learn would be to memorize, and that they memorized a lot.

Try to imagine what it would be like if there were no books, let alone no computers and internet. That everything you learned, your whole education system, was based purely on hearing and explanation: hearing something and you had to memorize it and learn – you had to remember it. What is remember? Remember means, in a sense, to memorize. And you had to do that solely based on hearing it spoken. That’s hard for us to even imagine, isn’t it. So what that implies is that these teachings and so on wouldn’t be just recited once, but they would have to be recited in an organized fashion over and over again so that the young students, hearing it over and over again, they would then participate in reciting it as well, and they would practice by themselves reciting it, and in this way they would learn it. And only on the basis of having heard it and memorized it could you then really think about it and try to understand it.

That’s the education system that you have even today among the Tibetans in the Buddhist areas. Except that now they have books, but they recite them and they memorize them anyway. In fact the whole education system is oriented toward taking advantage of the exceptional ability of the young mind to memorize things. If you observe in yourselves (I know in myself it’s the case) silly little poems that we had to memorize in school when I was 8 or 10 years old, I can still recite them. But try to remember something, somebody’s telephone number or something like that, that I learned yesterday – I can’t remember. What you have memorized as a small child, including language at an even younger age, you remember much better your entire life. Long-term memory is always better than short-term.

So their education system is such that up until the age of thirteen the students don’t get any explanations, they're just memorizing. And as Western people we can say, “Oh this is terrible. This is a medieval way of studying”. Yes, it is medieval. It’s the way that they study, and actually it has a benefit. You remember things. You're not just totally dependent on the internet and libraries and so on to remember something because you have to look it up. I always joke with people: what’s wrong with it being medieval? You have something against medieval? It’s fine!

First Buddhist Council

Okay, so this first council. These five hundred arhats get together and they have three most outstanding memorizers get up and recite the three major portions of Buddha’s teachings. There were three major divisions of the teachings that we have there:

  • the vinaya,

  • the sutra,

  • and the abhidharma.

I’ll explain what those are. Different arhats recited these different portions of the teachings.

Vinaya are the rules of discipline, the monastic vows. That’s the monks' vows, the nuns' vows. There are novice, there are fully ordained, there are many divisions; it’s not necessary to go into all of that. And the stories of why that vow was formulated by the Buddha was in terms of some incident happened – there was some problem with society or some problem within the community – and so Buddha made a rule that would help to resolve the problem.

It’s very interesting. If you look at monasticism, Christian monasticism, what is one of the major vows? Obedience. There is no vow of obedience in the Buddhist monastic system. It’s not a matter of “here are the rules and you have to obey them,” and if you obey them, you’re good, and if you don’t obey them, you’re out. That is the Biblical way of thinking, isn’t it, and the Western judicial way of thinking. Laws – heavenly laws, or laws made by a king, or a legislature, and you have to obey them. That’s not the way that we have ethics or anything like that in monastic organization in Buddhism. You see, in the West – either Biblical thinking or ancient Greek thinking – that you have laws made up from heaven or made up by a ruler or a legislature, and then you have justice, that’s a Western way of thinking. But there is such a thing as justice, but justice that, you follow the laws – obey, you’re good; you disobey, then you’re punished. You’re bad, you’re guilty, the whole concept of guilt. It’s a very Western way of thinking. In Buddhism, that’s not the conceptual formulation. These rules were made up basically because there was a problem that occurred, a difficulty, and here’s something that Buddha suggests that you follow in order to avoid the problem. It’s a very Buddhist way of thinking. Ethics is based on understanding what a problem is. You know, I didn’t understand there would be this problem, this difficulty, and so I acted in a way that caused more problems. So we want to avoid that. So ethics is based on understanding, not on obedience.

That teaches us something, doesn’t it? That if we want to run an organization or a society with certain so-called laws or rules, in order to get people to follow them it’s not just a matter of “Obey or else!” but help them to understand why there is this rule and why following the rule would make your life better; more smooth, run more easily. Then you don’t even have to have police, do you, if people really understood. So obviously that affects how one makes the rules, doesn’t it? What your motive is.

Anyway, somebody recited the vinaya, these rules of discipline. Somebody got up and recited the sutras, which are these themes of practice, especially dealing with concentration. And then someone got up and recited abhidharma. Abhidharma, I translate that as “special topics of knowledge.” It deals with metaphysics; it deals with how you understand the universe – what the universe is made up of, what are all the different types of beings in it, some sort of biology. It deals with all these special topics of knowledge, and it specializes in helping us to develop what’s called “discriminating awareness” to understand what actually are the various factors of our experience. And according to some versions (again, we have differences in our schools), some will say that abhidharma actually was taught by the Buddha. Some will say not everything in abhidharma was recited at that time, some was not recited. Others will say that really it wasn’t taught by the Buddha, it was put together by various arhats later. There are many different versions of abhidharma.

What is interesting if we look at the development, then, is that we get various schools splitting off within what I’m calling Hinayana, or what many people call Hinayana. And they will have slightly different versions of this abhidharma, and they will have slightly different versions of vinaya, because the different groups that developed experienced different problems. And so they slightly altered the vows, the way that it was understood. And that can be done in a democratic type of way: the elders get together and they decide. It can’t be done autocratically. Remember, Buddha grew up in a republic.

And they followed this custom, which actually came from the Jains. The Jain religion and philosophical system started fifty years before the Buddha. The founder of the Jain religion was fifty years his elder, and Buddha actually adopted many things from the Jains. So they would recite – the monks would recite – these vows every two weeks to make sure that everybody remembered them because they're not written down anywhere.

Second Buddhist Council

A hundred years later, after this first Council, there was a second council. “Council” is a Western word. Actually it was a gathering with everybody coming together to recite the scriptures and to make sure that no corruptions had come in. And again there are different versions of what happened here, but at this time there was a split in the monastic community. You see the main thing they were reciting were the vinaya, the monastic rules. And there was a difference of opinion about whether or not monks were allowed to accept gold – meaning money in our modern day. Could monks handle money or gold? The Theravadans had one idea, and one group had another idea. So Theravada said no way you could handle gold, so they would have attendants or novices deal with any sort of financial matters. Even nowadays in Theravada – those who really, really follow it strictly – monks will never carry money. Obviously there are those who don’t follow those rules strictly. The Mahasanghika was the group that broke off, and they said no, it was okay to have gold, to have money.

That's one version of why this split took place. But there are other aspects of the difference between these two schools. It had to do with arhats. In those days there were a lot of arhats, it seems – liberated beings. And both sides agreed that arhats weren’t omniscient: they didn’t know everything, they might get lost and have to ask directions on the road. But they knew everything about Dharma matters: how to actually teach people and what the teachings were. But Theravada insisted that arhats were completely free from disturbing emotions, such as desire – like a Buddha. So they weren’t making such a big difference between an arhat and a Buddha. Mahasanghika starts to make a difference, a bigger difference. And so what the Mahasanghika said, and this was undoubtedly based on their experience, was that arhats could still be seduced in their dreams. What this meant was that obviously some of these arhats who were not elderly were having wet dreams, nocturnal emissions, because they had sexual dreams. And so how do you explain that? Are they really still an arhat if this is happening to them? And so they said, well, yes, that could happen to arhats. So we could be arhats and still have these sexual dreams and nocturnal emission. It was very practical. I mean these issues arose because of their experience. But if you are a Buddha, that wouldn’t happen. So they made a difference between a Buddha and the arhat.

That’s the beginning, if you want to look at historical development, of making a real big difference between an arhat and a Buddha. For the Theravadas, there isn’t that big of a difference. Buddha just teaches. The arhats, they teach just limited numbers. Buddhas teach a lot of people. So not such a big difference. These communities gradually grew apart. And these Mahasanghikas, part of them went up to (we’re talking about central India), to the northwest, so this area which is now northern Pakistan; and another group went south to the area which is now Andhra Pradesh, which is on the west coast of India, half way down. And actually what one finds historically is that Mahayana first emerged particularly in this Andhra area in southern India, and later on tantra evolved there as well; and tantra also evolved in this northwestern area, the area now in Pakistan.

Because as we look at history (and I won’t go into all the details, we don’t have time) and the names, more and more groups branched out, and this idea of what a Buddha is developed more and more and more. So it became more in this direction of omniscient: a Buddha knows absolutely everything simultaneously. And a Buddha can manifest in countless number of forms and teach in every language, simultaneously, and everybody can understand the Buddha. It just gets bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger – the concept of a Buddha. Until you get the Mahayana view, which has the most qualities of a Buddha.

Third Buddhist Council

Then there was a third council – according to some sources. Other sources don’t record it as a council. In any case, this took place about a hundred and fifty years later than the second one. And now the Sarvastivada broke away [from the Theravada], and they were breaking away basically about abhidharma matters: how you understand what exists in the world. According to Sarvastivada everything is made up of particles – let’s call them atoms, although not necessarily the Western idea of atoms, but there are these particles. And so everything exists. Sarvastivada – “sarvasti” means everything exists, all-existing. And what they are saying is that what stays the same, basically, is the matter in the universe – these particles – over the past, present, and future. They just sort of change their configuration. And so the atoms in my body come from the atoms in my parents’ sperm and egg, and then it’s going to be the same atoms that are involved with the earth after I die, or ashes if I’m cremated. And so, like this, they have this concept of everything existing in the past, present, and future.

That actually is a very deep point, if you think about it. If we think in terms of modern science, is there just a certain amount of matter and energy in the universe, and that matter and energy persists over time, and it’s just changing in the form, but it’s basically sort of the same stuff that is changing all the time? Or is new matter and energy being created? Or how does it actually work? So this is not an irrelevant topic, even now in modern times.

The Theravadas didn’t agree. They said that the only things that exist are the present phenomena, just the present. Also past events that have not yet brought about their results, such as an argument that we had in the past, between myself and my partner, has not yet brought about a divorce, but it’s still effective – that argument that is not happening now, still exists in the sense that it is relevant to what could happen.

It is within the Sarvastivada school (whose scriptures eventually were written down in Sanskrit – that’s different, Pali is related to Sanskrit but they are different languages, like Spanish and French, something like that), it is that school which had various branches – Vaibhashika, Sautrantika, and so on – that thrive more in central India, and that was its teachings that were brought to Tibet.

Then later on you have the Dharmagupta school branching off as well, maybe fifty years later. They also elevated the Buddhas, but they said that it was more important to make offerings to the Buddha than it is to make offerings to the monastics. And particularly they emphasized making offerings to stupas. A stupa is a monument in which the relics of a Buddha or other great masters is kept. You see, what they were doing is more emphasizing a devotional aspect.

When we get the Mahayana scriptures around the same time – they start to develop just a little bit later – what you find very often in these Mahayana scriptures is they praise themselves; they say how much positive force or merit is gained by reciting this text. And they say it over and over again and really emphasize, and they give these numbers – you know, it’s like thirty-six million times more merit than making offerings to a stupa. What is the point? The point is they were reacting against this overly-devotional aspect of people just lighting incense and candles and stuff like that to these monuments, and saying, hey, far better to study the text, study me, this text. So you could look at it in a very sort of self-elevating type of way, or you could look at it in a way in which it’s trying to get the people back to actually studying the teachings and not just making offerings to monuments. Shantideva, a great Indian Buddhist master who lived in the eighth century of our era, he points out that don’t think that making offerings to a stupa is useless. So don’t go to an extreme here.

And this Dharmagupta school, which eventually went a little bit more into Central Asia, they also put together a body of what’s called dharanis. A dharani is basically a short sentence or formula that you recite over and over again in order to remain mindful of a certain teaching. So, again, like a devotional thing. And, mind you, this is all developing at the time when devotional Hinduism is developing, and so Buddhism sort of kept up with this. And it's hard to say, did Hindu influence Buddhist? Did Buddhist influence Hindu? You can’t really say; you can say both of them occurred at the same time. But the Hindus are mostly doing this chanting business, like nowadays you have the Hare Krishnas going around (Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, etc.), so the Buddhists got into the act as well and they have them chanting these dharanis.

So what happens is that you have a different version of the monks' vows, the monks' and nuns' vows, in each of these schools. Eventually there’s eighteen of these Hinayana schools. The ones that we have today are

  • the Theravada, and I’ll explain in our next lecture where that went – that went into Southeast Asia.

  • And another division of Sarvastivada, the Mula-sarvastivada – that went to Tibet.

  • And the Dharmagupta – the Dharmagupta is what went to China.

And so if you look at Chinese Buddhism you find that it is extremely devotional. The Chinese go into the temple and what do they do? They light incense, they light candles – that’s the big, big thing, to light these things and to recite short things over and over again, like these dharanis. That’s this influence from the Dharmagupta movement. Not so much emphasis on study – except for some of the schools, but some of the schools that didn’t really last. But these dharanis, we can’t say that they didn’t have any influence on other aspects of Buddhism because you also have, in the development of the tantra – hence later in the history of Buddhism – recitation of mantras, which are much shorter (usually, not always) than these dharanis. Some of them are very long. But mantras, which are repeated over and over and over again to help us to keep mindful of something, some teaching.

Fourth Buddhist Council

So this Dharmagupta split, that was in the very beginning of the second century before this era. And about a hundred years after that – it was around one hundred of the Common Era – we get what is known by some people as the fourth council. Within the Buddhist divisions, not that many accept that there was a fourth council, but some say there was. At this council, it was only within Sarvastivada, and the Vaibhashikas and Sautrantikas had already divided over their points of view, their analysis of reality and so on. And at this council they got together and the main people of the council rejected the Sautrantika views. They said our Vaibhashika is correct, and finally they wrote them down. So that was when we first get the Sanskrit tradition, wherever it was – the Sanskrit written down. That’s a long time after the Buddha.

So, I think that’s enough for this session. We haven’t covered all the development in India, but we can continue that in our next session.