Asoka and the Buddhist Samgha

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Aoka and the Buddhist "Sagha": A Study of Aoka's Schism Edict and Minor Rock Edict I Author(s): Herman Tieken Reviewed work(s): Source: Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 63, No. 1 (2000), pp. 1-30 Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of School of Oriental and African Studies Stable URL: . Accessed: 28/03/2012 19:30Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact

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Aioka and the BuddhistSamgha:a study of Aioka's SchismEdict and Minor Rock Edict IHERMAN TIEKEN

Introduction In the legendary accounts of the Buddhist canon concerning the growth and plays an importdevelopment of Theravada Buddhism (Norman, 1987) AMoka ant role. In support of these legends modern scholars have quoted Agoka's own so-called Schism Edict from Allahabad (Kausambi), Sanchi and Sarnath, in which the emperor would claim to have acted against schisms in the Buddhist Church (e.g. Alsdorf, 1959). However, Bechert has convincingly shown that in this edict AMokais not concerned with schisms in the Buddhist Church but with divisions within local, individual samghas (Bechert, 1961; 1982). It should immediately be added that this does not imply a denigration of AMoka's importance for Buddhism but merely brings his role into line with contemporary realities. At the time the level of organization in Buddhism did not go It is all the more important to identify beyond that of the individual samrgha. interferencein the sarmgha. However, it is precisely exactly the details of AMoka's here that problems start, as several passages in the text of the Schism Edict, an important source on this topic, are still unclear. By way of example I refer to posathdye in the Sarnath version, which has been variously interpreted as a dative of direction and a dative of time. The difference would be whether official should go to the uposatha ceremony or should go to the samgha AMoka's on the uposatha day. An inventoryof the problems The present study will deal with some of the problems in the text of the Schism Edict in order to gain a clearer picture of the nature and circumstances of interference in the Buddhist samghas. Before going into detail I would AMoka's like to present an inventory of the more obvious problems in the text. The Schism Edict is found in three places, namely in Allahabad (Kausambi),2 Sanchi and Sarnath respectively. The text consists of two parts. The first, which is found with only minor variations in all three versions, consists of a standard introduction ([devdnam]piye inapayati kosambiyam maBelow I quote the barest three sentences. followed the by following hamdtd),3 of the three versions, from Allahabad, as reconstructed by Alsdorf (1959: 163):4 1. samghe samage kate 2. samghasi no lahiye bhede

1An earlier version of this article was read by Professor Tilmann Vetter and Dr Clodwig H. Werba, to both of whom I am grateful for their comments. The article has benefited greatly from discussion with Professor Jan Heesterman, whom I would like to thank here for the keen interest shown in the topic and his many comments and suggestions. 2 While the inscription has been found at Allahabad, the edict had been addressed to the mahamatras of Kausambi. In the Sanchi version this part of the text is unreadable. In Sarnath the text is readable only 3 from the third line onwards (ye kena pi samghe bhetave ...). For the most recent attempt at reconstructing the opening part of this version, see Norman (1987: 8-9). inscriptions. 4 Unless indicated otherwise references are to Hulztsch's 1925 edition of the AMoka Other sources are Schneider (1978), for the Rock Edicts (RE), Andersen (1990), for the Minor Rock Edicts (MRE), and Alsdorf (1962), for the Separate Edicts of Dhauli and Jaugada (SE).

? School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 2000



3. ye samnghamr bhdkhati bhikhu va bhikhuni va se pi ca oddtani dusani samnamdhapayituanavasasi avasayiye 1. The samrgha is said to have been made samagga. This sentence is missing in Sarnath. 2. In the samgha division should not be allowed. In Sanchi this sentence is found before (1). 3. The third sentence apparently says that the monk or nun who (in the future) will divide the samgha (samrgharn bhdkhati) is to be made to wear white robes again and to be expelled from the avasa of the sam.gha. In Sarnath, and only in this version, this is followed by a passage which seems to provide instructions to the mahamdtrasconcerning, among other things, the circulation of the edict. An important landmark in the study of the edict is Bechert's article published in 1961 (see also Bechert, 1982). As indicated above, it was until then assumed that the edict referred to the schisms in the Buddhist Church which ultimately led to Theravada Buddhism. As such, the inscription would corroborate the accounts of that schism in Theravada sources, according to which it had taken place in the wake of ASoka's interference in the Buddhist Church at a moment at which it was irremediably divided.5 Bechert argues that samrgha in the edict does not refer to the 'the Buddhist Church', but to a local samngha. He arrived at this conclusion after a careful study of the use of the terms in Vinaya, showing that they were legal terms for samagga and sarmghabheda in particular the procedures taking place procedures used in the local samrgha, at the uposatha ceremony. However, if the terminology in the inscription is indeed that of Buddhist Vinaya, it is curious to note that neither Bechert nor any of the scholars after him questioned, or even commented on,6 the analysis of bh[. ]khati7 in for the verb to be expectedsam.gham is bhid-,9 bh[.]khati as a future of the verb bhan-j-;8 the term always being samrghabheda, never Note expressions like samrngham and ye kenapi samrnghe bhetave. bhindati, *sam.ghabhariga. jnadti samgho bhijjissattti, It is clear that for the derivation of the verb bh[.]khati other possibilities should be explored. The problem of the meaning and derivation of bh[.]khati is linked to that of samagga, in that the action of bh[.]khati results in the annihilation of the being samagga. Unfortunately, two possibilities as to the meaning of samrngha samagga have been left open, namely 'complete' and 'unanimous' (most recently Hu-von Hinliber, 1994: 219-26). The situation is justified by assuming a distribution of the two meanings over two mutually exclusive contexts: 'unanimous' where samagga is found in opposition to samghabheda, andFor the various traditional accounts of this schism see Norman (1987: 16-8). One of the few scholars to comment on the use of the verb bhaflj-instead of bhid- is Norman (1987: 10). 7 The vowel is uncertain. Allahabad-Kauarmbi has [...]khati, Sarnath bh[...]t[i], and Sanchi bh[.]khati. -kh- stands for both single or for double -kh-/-kkh-, depending on whether the preceding vowel is long (bh[d]khati) or short (bh[a]kkhati). 8 See, for instance, Turner (1931), who, however, also drew attention to the problems involved in this derivation, which assumes the loss of the nasal element ni in bhariksyati. 9 On final analysis the derivation of bh[.]khati from a form of bhalij- is the outcome of the search for a synonym of the verb bhid- found in samghabheda. In this connection it should be noted that the meanings of bhahj- 'to break (in two pieces, to break off)' and bhid- 'to divide, to break open' overlap only partly. It should be noted again that ad hoc variations in the legal terminology were at all costs to be avoided. In this respect Buddhist law was no exception as may be gathered from, for instance, the insistence on the correct pronunciation of the words used in the legal procedures of the Buddhist sarmghas (see von Hiniiber, 1987).5 6



'complete' in the other contexts, which deal mostly with the preparation of the uposatha ceremony. E.g. with anujdnami... samagganam uposathakammam (Vinaya I 105) the Buddha would order that all monks attend: 'Ich ordne ... eine Uposathafeier fUr die vollzahligen (MOnche)an'. On the question to what area this 'completeness' extends, the Buddha answered: anujanamibhikkhave etavata samaggt yavata ekavaso'ti, 'Ich ordne an, ihr Mbnche, daB die Vollzihligkeit sich so weit wie ein Ava-sa(erstreckt)'. The word samagga will be the starting point of an excursion into the semantics of the term on the one hand, and the 'history' of the Buddhist uposatha ceremony on the other. It will be argued that for samagga we should start from the meaning 'unanimous'. Doubt about the correctness of that meaning in certain contexts is due to the specific form the Buddhist uposatha ceremony has taken when compared to its secular 'predecessor'. It is generally assumed that the three sentences quoted above are addressed to the mahamatras, who are instructed on what to do with dissenting monks and nuns; the mahdmatras are to defrock them and to dispel them from the The passage which follows (only in Sarnath) avasa of the particular then not have been meant for publication. In it AMoka would, or rather could, sam.gha. 'merely' tells his officials what to do with the preceding t