Saturday, August 05, 2006

Sarvāstivāda-nikāya in the Kingdom of Cambodia

The language of Sanskrit found in the inscriptions of the Malay Peninsula, West-Borneo and Cambodia is that of the Sarvāstivāda-nikāya Ordination Lineage. Definite available evidence shows that Buddhism began to assert itself not earlier than the middle of the fifth century C.E., so that when Bhishu I-tsing, towards the close of the seventh century C.E. recognizes Sarvāstivāda-nikāya as the dominate Theravadan school at the time.

The great temple of Bayon in the city of Angkor Thom shows a large influence of Sarvāstivāda-nikāya since it is based upon the Saddharmapundarīka-Sūtram a classical work of the Sarvāstivādan scholastics. The facts clearly show that the Śāsana derived from India was that of the Sarvāstivāda-nikāya Lineage and that the latter form of Theravāda, after the Fourteenth century C.E., was from Lankavaŋsa through Thailand. Therefore, Sarvāstivāda-nikāya was recognized by two early Kings of Cambodia Jayavarman II and Jayavarman VII thus earning itself to be the first to teach the Dharma of the Blessed One, the Buddha, to Khmer people.

Sarvāstivāda-nikāya Samgiti (synod)

The Synod of Rajagrha, 40 days after Nirvāna
(followers of this Synod can be called * Theravada)

The Synod of Vaisali, 1st Century Buddhist Era

The First Synod of Pataliputra, 225 Buddhist Era

The Second Synod of Pataliputra, 236 Buddhist Era

The Synod of King Kaniska, 400 Buddhist Era
(Abhidharma recited as canonical)

The Sarvāstivādins in the Northwest and the Pali school in Ceylon were both missions that came into existence because of King Aśoka.


*Latter given the name Theravada in the 19th century c.e. by European scholars. Theri meaning elders vada meaning teachings refer to this first Synod in which all schools of “hinayana” accept. The term “hinayana” is no longer used internationally the accepted terms are now Theravada or the Southern School of Buddhism.

Brief Tenets of Sarvāstivāda-nikāya

1. There is no Buddha who was always a Buddha
who has been beginninglessly enlightened. Buddhas are people who, like ourselves, originally had minds accompanied by defilements and stage by stage removed those defilements to the point where they transferred themselves into beings that had attained all good attributes and removed all faults.

2. We pay homage to Gautama who, motivated by compassion, taught the excellent Dharma in order to eliminate all wrong views.

3. The Dharma is extremely profound as well as varied. Buddhism is a rational, deep, and sophisticated approach to human life which does not emphasize something external but rather emphasizes personal responsibility for inner development.

4. To be good a Buddhist we must mainly practice compassion and honesty. Showing kindness to others, we can learn to be less selfish; sharing the sufferings of others, we will develop concern for the welfare of all beings.

5. We practice deep meditation and cultivate wisdom, and as our wisdom develops our sense of ethics naturally grows stronger.

An Ancient Buddhist Tradition

The ancient school of Sarvāstivāda-nikāya does it differ from newer Buddhist schools?

Though there are many different designations of names of innate union, the small case, the fivefold, equal taste, the four letters, pacification, exorcism, great perfection, instructions on the view of the Middle Way School, and so forth, when these are analyzed by an experienced yogi skilled in definitive scripture and reasoning, the all come down to the same thought.
The First Pachen Lama

Transcending sectarianism, we can find much to evoke deep realization by seeing how all schools come down to the same thought.
His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso
The Fourteenth Dalai Lama

Sarvāstivāda-nikāya and Tradition

When we speak of the essence of Buddha Dharma, there is no question about suitability and no need to change the basic Dharma. However there is a distinction between the essence of a religion and superficial ceremonial or ritual level.

The essence of the Dharma does not change; whatever it goes it is suitable; however, the superficial aspects- certain rituals and ceremonies- are not necessarily suitable for a changing environment; those things will change. How they will change in a particular way place we cannot say. This evolves over time. When Buddhism first came from India to Tibet, no one had the authority to say, “Now Buddhism has come to a new land; from now on we must practice it in this way or that way.” There was no such decision. It gradually evolved, and in time a unique tradition arose.

In the case of Tibetan culture, for example, certain past traditions may not be useful in the future. When under new circumstances the social system and way of social thinking change, certain aspects of a culture may no longer be useful.

If you really take an interest in Buddhism, then the most important thing is implementation-practice.

Among Buddhist, there are different schools, different systems of practice, and we should not feel that one teaching is better, another teaching is worse, and so on. Sectarian feeling and criticism of other teachings or other sects is very bad, poisonous, and should be avoided.

The most important thing is practice in daily life; then you can know gradually the true value of Dharma. Dharma is not meant for mere knowledge but for the improvement of our minds. In order to do that, it must be part of our life.