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Behaviour of Bhikkus in the city of Vaishali - about 100 years after the passing awa of the Buddha

All around Vaishali in India, there were groups of Bhikkus who were proudly claiming that they too were the sons of Sakya muni. They were called the sons-of-Vajjis (Vajjiputthaka) numbering about 10,000. They were unable to adhere to the code of conduct declared by the Sakya Muni Buddha and to justify this they declared 10 things as suitable for Bhikkus, which in fact were totally unsuitable and disallowed for the Bhikkus.

Among the ten unsuitable elements, the wrongful declaration that the usage of money, gold and silver as suitable for bhikkus, was a death blow to the clear Path of the disciplined Bhikkus of Gothama Buddha, the Teacher, the great son of the Sakyans.

“Folks, Bhikkus have use for money, gold and silver! You may offer those to that vessel full of water!" was the lamentation came out of the Vajjiputthaka Bhikkus.

Kaakandaputta Yasa, an Arahanth Bhikku was traversing the republic of the Vajjis at this time. He saw this incident with his own eyes and in the midst of the Bhikkus he preached “Lay people, money, gold and silver are not suitable for the Bhikkus at all. A disciple of Buddha shall never accept such offerings. They live avoiding such things. Hence, you should not offer.”

However, this was novel to the people of Vaishali and they did not care about this preaching and they happily continued offering money, gold and silver to the Vajjipuththaka Bhikkus.Vajjipuththakas counted the number of Bhikkus present and they divided the collection of the gold and silver equally according to that count, not forgetting to separately keep the portion due to Arahanth Yasa.

“Friend, we have kept your share, please use.”, they told Arahanth Yasa.

“Friends, I do not need any gold. I do not accept any gold, silver or money.” was the only answer from Arahanth Yasa.

Vajjipuththakas became angry with the straight forward answer from Arahanth Yasa and turning to other Bhikkus they said “This Bhikku Yasa is showing anger and insults to our warm hearted lay followers. That will result in the lay followers becoming cold hearted. Hence, let us perform the Patisaaraniya Kamma on him.” and they did.

Patisaaraniya Kamma is a disciplinary action perfomed on a Bhikku who has broken the layman- Bhikku relationship, the idea being to bring back that unity. If a Bhikku insults or behaves angrily towards a lay follower, the Bhikkus will administer this disciplinary rule to him in order to send that Bhikku to the lay person and ask for mercy.

Even though the application of discipline was unclean the great Thero due to his respect for the Disciplinary Rules and the determination to bring the problem to surface and break the wrong concept, requested for an accompanying Bhikku and entered Vaishali with him. There he met the lay disciples and said this.

“Friends, I quoted tainted teaching (Adharma) as tainted teaching and true Teaching (Dharma) as true Teaching. Indiscipline as Indiscipline. Discipline as Discipline. They are telling me that saying so will not be for the warm heartedness of disciples.” Buddha himself has declared that acceptance of gold and silver is detrimental to any religious sect. I repeated the same and then they ordered Patisaaraniya Kamma on me citing that I am causing the Bhikkus to be untrustworthy to you.

“There is friends, one more factor. Once the Buddha applauded the quote of ‘Gold and silver are not suitable for Bhkkus. Bhikkus shall not accept them’ and added that if any Bhikku thinks that gold & silver are suitable, that implies all sensual pleasures are suitable for him and the Bhikku thus accepted loses the monkhood. Furthermore, because of Upananda a son of Sakya clan, the Buddha installed a Disciplinary rule categorically prohibiting the acceptance of gold and silver.”

Hearing this, the accompanying Bhikku became angry and quickly informed the Vajjipuththaka’s that Yasa Thero scolded and belittled them in front of the laity. They became restless and suggested a more severe “Ukkepaniya” disciplinary action on Yasa Thero. As that was not done as prescribed by the accepted Disciplinary procedures, Yasa Thero did not wait for that. When the Bhikkus were gathering for that admonition, using his psychic powers, Yasa Thero leapt into the sky and arrived at the city of Kosambi.

There Ven Yasa sent messages calling for a large scale gathering of the Bhikkus and met Sambhutha Maha Thero and briefed him on the importance of resolving this issue. Arahanth Bhikku thus gathered soon realized that this is not an issue which could be easily resolved. It was clear that much more power was required. They decided that Arahanth Revatha needed to be involved. Arahanth Revatha, listening to their conversation through psychic abilities departed his abode and met the Bhikkus who were coming to meet them on the way.

After explaining the issue of accepting gold & silver to Ven Revatha and obtaining his reconfirmation on the unsuitability of the same, they organized the gathering of Bhikkus for resolving the issue in public. Vajjipuththaka Bhikkus, not to lose the impetus, themselves sought the help of Ven Revatha by coercion through gifts and through his disciples, but failed. Finally, accompanied by Ven Revatha, Ven Yasa and other Bhikkus left for Vaishali as the captioned issue arose there. On the way they met 120 years old Ven Sabbakami who had seen the living Buddha and Ven Revatha explained the matter to him and accompanying him they reached Vaishali.

At this point about 1.2 million Arahanths and about 10,000 Vajjipuththaka Bhikkus were gathered at the designated ground. As this was too large a gathering for any conversation, a section of 700 Bhikkus including Ven Sabbakami, Ven Saalha, Ven Bujjasobhitha, Ven Vaasabagamika, Ven Revatha, Ven Sambhutha, Ven Yasa and Ven Sumana discussed the matters and the issues were resolved and the decision of the Great Sangha was implemented. More generally, what is true Dhamma and what is true Discipline were further discussed and agreed upon.

Among those eight leading Bhikkus, Ven Sumana & Ven Vaasabhagamika were students of the great Arahanth Anuruddha (One of the 80 great Arahanths) . The other six were students of Ven Arahanth Ananda (The Treasurer holding Dhamma in his memory) and all of them had seen the living Buddha.

This gathering later named ‘Saththasathikaa’ (congregation by 700) helped Dhamma (Teaching of the Buddha) and Vinaya (disciplinary rules for the Bhikkus) to be preserved till today.

We are forever indebted to these true sons of Buddha, and to the supreme Teaching of the Buddha which gave rise to those sons to this world and to the Gothama Buddha himself, the sourse of this great Teaching.

May the Noble Triple Gem accept our salutations!

(Source: Sacred Texts of Chullavaggapali and Saththasathikakandhaya)

 Author: Ven. Kirulapana Dhammawijaya Thero

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