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A Brief History Of Mahasanghika Related Schools

Caityakas (or Caitika)

This school originated with the teacher Mahadeva (not the same Mahadeva who was responsible for the origin of the Mahasanghikas) towards the close of the 2nd century after the parinibbana of the Buddha. Mahadeva was a learned and diligent ascetic who received his ordination in the Mahasanghika Sangha. Since he dwelt on the mountain where there was a caitya, the name Caityaka was given to his adherents. In the middle of the 1st century B. C., this section of the Mahasanghika broke away in the Andhra country and officially formed a separate school.

The Caitikas from their center in Andhra spread North West up the Godavani valley as far as Nasika. Their 4 offshoots, the Apara Saila, Uttara (Purva) Saila, Rajagirika and Siddharthaka seem all to have begun as the communities of particular viharas around the Andhra city of Dhanyakataka where the Caltikas originated.

The Sailas derived their name from the hills located round the principal centres of their activities. They were also called the Andhrakas in the Ceylonese chronicles because of their popularity in the Andhra country. The Caityakas and the Saila schools were the most prominent and had great influence in the south.

The Caityavada was the source of the Saila schools generally they shared the fundamental doctrines of the original Mahasanghikas but different in minor details. They were the first school to deify the Buddha and the Bodhisattva which ultimately led to the complete deification of the Buddha and the Bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism. Doctrines specially attributed to them are:

(1). One can acquired great merits by the creation, decoration, worship and circumabulation of the caityas.

(2). Offerings of flowers etc. to caityas are also meritorious.

(3). By making gifts one can acquire religious merit and one can also transfer such merit to one's friends and relatives for their happiness (common in Mahayanism).

(4). The Buddhas are free from attachment, ill-will and delusion and possessed of finer qualities. They are superior to the arhats.

(5). A person having right-view is not free from hatred and as such not free from the danger of committing murder.

It is apparent that the doctrines of the Mahasanghika and their offshoots contain germs from which the later Mahayana doctrine developed.


This school was established around 250 B.C. when Mahasangha split and produced two new schools. The other school was Gokulika. The Ekavyavaharika are hardly known in later times and perhaps were reabsorbed into the Mahasanghika.


The school was produced by Mahasanghika(from Ekavyavaharika?) around the middle of the 3rd century. The name of this school means "transcendent" school and refers to the nature of the Buddha as a being transcending the world. It states that even the body of the Buddha is not of this world but is transcendental, he never feel fatigue though he conform to the practice of lying down. In attaining nirvana he would be agreed by all schools to be transcendent, but the question is whether in some sense he was a special kind of being, a transcendent being, already before this, even before the renunciation, even at his birth.

There is no evidence as to how far the Lokottaravada school went along this line of speculation, but the ultimate result of it was to lead to the transcendentalist views of the Mahayana on the nature of the Buddha.

The chief contribution of the school appears to have been their unorthodox Vinaya text, the Mahavastu, as perhaps the first full scale attempt to collect all the traditions concerning the biography of the Buddha, including, a good many jatakas into one great book. This book has come down to us due to the fact that it found favor among some of the Mahayanists and was preserved in Nepal in Mahayana libraries. The text of the Mahavastu as now extant may be the work of several centuries of gradual elaboration of doctrine.

Gokulika (Kukkutika/Kukkulika etc.)

Some time after this "transcendent schism" apparently in the Ekavyavaharika school, the other offshoot of Mahasanghika - the Gokulika (Kukkutika) school, threw out 2 further branches around the end of the 3rd century B.C. Both seem to have arisen through the abhidhamma type of discussions (in which the Gokulikas are believed to have specialized). These two sub schools were:

  1. The Bahusrutiya (means "learned") were founded by a monk called Yajnavalkya. Like the Gokuliyas, the Bahusrutiyas hold that all emotions are really unhappiness and all principles have the principles of falsity, only extinction is non-false and ultimately real. The thought even of emptiness ceases in final extinction. The special doctrine of this school, according to Vasumitra, was that the Buddha has a "transcendent" teaching, having the power to produce the way, indicated by the 5 words "impermanence", "unhappiness", "emptiness", "non-soul" and "extinction".
  2. The Prajnaptivada (the "concept school) was founded by Mahakatyayana, however no prajnaptivada text seems now to be available.

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