Buddhist texts were passed on orally by monks, but were written down and composed as manuscripts in various Indo-Aryan languages which were translated into other local languages as Buddhism spread. They can be categorized in a number of ways; the Western terms "scripture" and "canonical" are applied to Buddhism in inconsistent ways by Western scholars: for example, one authority refers to "scriptures and other canonical texts", while another says that scriptures can be categorized into canonical and pseudo-canonical. Buddhist traditions have divided these texts with their own categories and divisions, such as that between buddhavacana "word of the Buddha," many of which are known as "sutras," and other texts, such as shastras or Abhidharma; these religious texts were written in many different languages and scripts but memorizing and copying the texts were of high value. After the development of printing, Buddhists preferred to keep to their original practices with these texts. According to Donald Lopez, criteria for determining what should be considered buddhavacana were developed at an early stage, that the early formulations do not suggest that Dharma is limited to what was spoken by the historical Buddha.
The Mahāsāṃghika and the Mūlasarvāstivāda considered both the Buddha's discourses, of his disciples, to be buddhavacana. A number of different beings such as buddhas, disciples of the buddha, ṛṣis, devas were considered capable to transmitting buddhavacana; the content of such a discourse was to be collated with the sūtras, compared with the Vinaya, evaluated against the nature of the Dharma. These texts may be certified as true buddhavacana by a buddha, a saṃgha, a small group of elders, or one knowledgeable elder. In Theravada Buddhism, the standard collection of buddhavacana is the Pāli Canon; some scholars believe that some portions of the Pali Canon and Agamas could contain the actual substance of the historical teachings of the Buddha. In East Asian Buddhism, what is considered buddhavacana is collected in the Chinese Buddhist canon; the most common edition of this is the Taishō Tripiṭaka. According to Venerable Hsuan Hua from the tradition of Chinese Buddhism, there are five types of beings who may speak the sutras of Buddhism: a buddha, a disciple of a buddha, a deva, a ṛṣi, or an emanation of one of these beings.
These sutras may be properly regarded as buddhavacana. Sometimes texts that are considered commentaries by some are regarded by others as Buddhavacana. Shingon Buddhism developed a system that assigned authorship of the early sutras to Gautama Buddha in his physical manifestation, of the Ekayana sutras to the Buddhas as Sambhoghakaya, the Vajrayana texts to the Buddha as Dharmakaya. In Tibetan Buddhism, what is considered buddhavacana is collected in the Kangyur; the East Asian and Tibetan Buddhist canons always combined Buddhavacana with other literature in their standard collected editions. However, the general view of what is and is not buddhavacana is broadly similar between East Asian Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism; the Tibetan Kangyur, which belongs to the various schools of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism, in addition to containing sutras and vinaya contains tantras. The earliest Buddhist texts were passed down orally in Middle Indo-Aryan languages called Prakrits, including Gāndhārī language, the early Magadhan language and Pali through the use of repetition, communal recitation and mnemonic devices.
Doctrinal elaborations were preserved in Abhidharma works and Karikas. As Buddhism spread geographically, these texts were translated into the local language, such as Chinese and Tibetan; the Pali canon was preserved in Sri Lanka where it was first written down in the first century BCE and the Theravadan Pali textual tradition developed there. The Sri Lankan Pali tradition developed extensive commentaries as well as sub-commentaries for the Pali Canon as well as treatises on Abhidhamma. Sutra commentaries and Abhidharma works exist in Tibetan, Chinese and other East Asian languages. Important examples of non-canonical Pali texts are the Visuddhimagga, by Buddhaghosa, a compendium of Theravada teachings and the Mahavamsa, a historical Sri Lankan chronicle; the earliest known Buddhist manuscripts, recovered from the ancient civilization of Gandhara in north central Pakistan are dated to the 1st century and constitute the Buddhist textual tradition of Gandharan Buddhism, an important link between Indian and East Asian Buddhism.
After the rise of the Kushans in India, Sanskrit was widely used to record Buddhist texts. Sanskrit Buddhist literature became the dominant tradition in India until the decline of Buddhism in India. Around the beginning of the Christian era, a new genre of sutra literature began to be written with a focus on the Bodhisattva idea known as Mahayana sutras. Many of the Mahayana sutras were written in Sanskrit and translated into the Tibetan and Chinese Buddhist canons which developed their own textual histories; the Mahayana sutras are traditionally considered by Mahayanists to be the word of the Buddha, but transmitted either in secret, via lineages of supernatural beings, or revealed directly from other Buddhas or bodhisattvas. Some 600 Mahayana Sutras have survived in Chinese and/or Tibetan translation. In the Mahayana tradition there are important works termed Shastras, or treatises which attempt to outline the sutra teachings and defend or exp
The Dharmaguptaka are one of the eighteen or twenty early Buddhist schools, depending on the source. They are said to have originated from the Mahīśāsakas; the Dharmaguptakas had a prominent role in early Central Asian and Chinese Buddhism, their Prātimokṣa are still in effect in East Asian countries to this day, including China, Vietnam and Japan. They are one of three surviving Vinaya lineages, along with that of the Theravāda and the Mūlasarvāstivāda. Guptaka means "preserver" and dharma "law, morality", most the set of laws of Northern Buddhism; the Dharmaguptakas regarded the path of a bodhisattva to be separate. A translation and commentary on the Samayabhedoparacanacakra reads: They say that although the Buddha is part of the Saṃgha, the fruits of giving to the Buddha are great, but not so for the Saṃgha. Making offerings to stūpas may result in many extensive benefits; the Buddha and those of the Two Vehicles, although they have one and the same liberation, have followed different noble paths.
Those of outer paths cannot obtain the five supernormal powers. The body of an arhat is without outflows. In many other ways, their views are similar to those of the Mahāsāṃghikas. According to the Abhidharma Mahāvibhāṣā Śāstra, the Dharmaguptakas held that the Four Noble Truths are to be observed simultaneously. Vasubandhu states that the Dharmaguptakas held, in agreement with Theravada and against Sarvāstivāda, that realization of the four noble truths happens all at once; the Dharmaguptaka are known to have rejected the authority of the Sarvāstivāda prātimokṣa rules on the grounds that the original teachings of the Buddha had been lost. The Dharmaguptaka used a unique twelvefold division of the Buddhist teachings, found in their Dīrgha Āgama, their Vinaya, in some Mahāyāna sūtras; these twelve divisions are: sūtra, geya, vyākaraṇa, gāthā, udāna, nidāna, jātaka, itivṛttaka, adbhūtadharma, avadāna, upadeśa. Between 148 and 170 CE, the Parthian monk An Shigao came to China and translated a work which described the color of monastic robes utilized in five major Indian Buddhist sects, called Da Biqiu Sanqian Weiyi.
Another text translated at a date, the Śāriputraparipṛcchā, contains a similar passage with nearly the same information. However, the colors for Dharmaguptaka and Sarvāstivāda are reversed. In the earlier source, the Sarvāstivāda are described as wearing deep red robes, while the Dharmaguptaka are described as wearing black robes; the corresponding passage found in the Śāriputraparipṛcchā, in contrast, portrays the Sarvāstivāda as wearing black robes and the Dharmaguptaka as wearing deep red robes. During the Tang dynasty, Chinese Buddhist monastics wore grayish-black robes and were colloquially referred to as Zīyī, "those of the black robes." However, the Song dynasty monk Zanning writes that during the earlier Han-Wei period, the Chinese monks wore red robes. According to the Dharmaguptaka vinaya, the robes of monastics should be sewn out of no more than 18 pieces of cloth, the cloth should be heavy and coarse. A consensus has grown in scholarship which sees the first wave of Buddhist missionary work as associated with the Gāndhārī language and the Kharoṣṭhī script and tentatively with the Dharmaguptaka sect.
However, there is evidence that other sects and traditions of Buddhism used Gāndhārī, further evidence that the Dharmaguptaka sect used Sanskrit at times: It is true that most manuscripts in Gāndhārī belong to the Dharmaguptakas, but all schools — inclusive Mahāyāna — used some Gāndhārī. Von Hinüber has pointed out incompletely Sanskritised Gāndhārī words in works heretofore ascribed to the Sarvāstivādins and drew the conclusion that either the sectarian attribution had to be revised, or the tacit dogma "Gāndhārī equals Dharmaguptaka" is wrong. Conversely, Dharmaguptakas resorted to Sanskrit. Starting in the first century of the Common Era, there was a large trend toward a type of Gāndhārī, Sanskritized; the Gandharan Buddhist texts, the earliest Buddhist texts discovered, are dedicated to the teachers of the Dharmaguptaka school. They tend to confirm a flourishing of the Dharmaguptaka school in northwestern India around the 1st century CE, with Gāndhārī as the canonical language, this would explain the subsequent influence of the Dharmaguptakas in Central Asia and northeastern Asia.
According to Buddhist scholar A. K. Warder, the Dharmaguptaka originated in Aparānta. According to one scholar, the evidence afforded by the Gandharan Buddhist texts "suggest that the Dharmaguptaka sect achieved early success under their Indo-Scythian supporters in Gandhāra, but that the sect subsequently declined with the rise of the Kuṣāṇa Empire, which gave its patronage to the Sarvāstivāda sect." Available evidence indicates that the first Buddhist missions to Khotan were carried out by the Dharmaguptaka sect: he Khotan Dharmapada, some orthographical devices of Khotanese and the not yet systematically plotted Gāndhārī loan words in Khotanese betray indisputably that the first missions in Khotan included Dharmaguptakas and used a Kharoṣṭhī-written Gāndhārī. Now all other manuscripts from Khotan, all manuscripts written in Khotanese, belong to the Mahāyāna, are written in the Brāhmī script, were translated from Sanskrit. A number of scholars have identified three distinct major phases of missionary activities seen in the history of Buddhism in Central Asia, which are associ
Since the death of the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, Buddhist monastic communities have periodically convened to settle doctrinal and disciplinary disputes and to revise and correct the contents of the sutras. These gatherings, referred to by historians as'Buddhist councils', are recorded in the Buddhist sutras as having begun following the death of the Buddha and have continued into the modern era; the number and ordering of the councils employed in Western academia is based on Theravada historical chronicles- regional or sectarian gatherings not involving the Mahavihara Theravada lineage may be regarded as equivalent in significance by other traditions. The earliest councils- for which there is little historical evidence outside of the sutras- are regarded as canonical events by every Buddhist tradition, while some councils have been concerned only with the Theravada tradition. According to the scriptures of all Buddhist schools, the first Buddhist Council was held soon after the death of the Buddha, dated by the majority of recent scholars around 400 BCE, under the patronage of the king Ajatashatru with the monk Mahakasyapa presiding, at Sattapanni caves Rajgriha.
Its objective was to preserve the the monastic discipline or rules. The Suttas were recited by Ananda, the Vinaya was recited by Upali. Western scholarship has suggested that the Abhidhamma Pitaka was composed starting after 300 BCE because of differences in language and content from other Sutta literature. However, oral tradition maintained by the Atthakathā-teachers describe the six canons of Abhidhamma Pitaka, one of its Matika, the ancient Atthakathā as included at the first Buddhist council in Sutta category, but its literature is different from Sutta because Abhidhamma Pitaka was authored by Sāriputta; some scholars of Indian Buddhism have questioned the event's historicity, although Sri Lankan and Theravadan sources display a level of internal coherence that suggest otherwise. The circumstances surrounding the First Buddhist Council are recorded in the Vinaya Pitaka of the early Buddhist schools; the text is called the Recitation of Five-Hundred because five hundred senior monks were chosen by the community to collect and clarify the Buddha's teachings.
The historical records for the so-called "Second Buddhist Council" derive from the canonical Vinayas of various schools. In most cases, these accounts are found at the end of the Skandhaka portion of the Vinaya. While disagreeing on points of details, they agree that the root dispute was points of vinaya or monastic discipline; the Second Council resulted in the first schism in the Sangha. Modern scholars see this event as caused by a group of reformists called Sthaviras who split from the conservative majority Mahāsāṃghikas; this view is supported by the vinaya texts themselves, as vinayas associated with the Sthaviras do contain more rules than those of the Mahāsāṃghika Vinaya. All scholars agree that this second council was a historical event. There is no agreement however on the dating of the event or if it was post Ashoka, it was held at Vaishali under the presidency of Sabakami. In striking contrast to the uniform accounts of the Second Council, there are records of several possible "Third Councils".
These different versions function to authorize the founding of other. According to the Theravāda commentaries and chronicles, the Third Buddhist Council was convened by the Mauryan king Ashoka at Pātaliputra, under the leadership of the monk Moggaliputta Tissa, its objective was to purify the Buddhist movement from opportunistic factions, attracted by the royal patronage. The king asked the suspect monks what the Buddha taught, they claimed he taught views such as eternalism, etc. which are condemned in the canonical Brahmajala Sutta. He asked the virtuous monks, they replied that the Buddha was a "Teacher of Analysis", an answer, confirmed by Moggaliputta Tissa; the Council proceeded to recite the scriptures once more, adding to the canon Moggaliputta Tissa's own book, the Kathavatthu, a discussion of various dissenting Buddhist views now contained in the Theravāda Abhidhamma Pitaka. This council seems to have been the cause of the split between the Sarvastivada and the Vibhajjavāda schools.
Emissaries were sent to various countries in order to spread Buddhism, as far as the Greek kingdoms in the West. According to Frauwallner, several of these missionaries were responsible for founding schools in various parts of India: Majjhantika was the father of the Kasmiri Sarvastivādins. Relics of some of the Haimavata monks have been excavated at Vedisa in central India; the most famous of the missionaries, the main focus of interest for these Theravada histories, is Mahinda, who travelled to Sri Lanka where he founded the school we now know as Theravada. The Theravāda's own Dipavamsa records a quite different Council called the "Great Recital", which it claims was held by the reformed Vajjiputtakas following their defeat at the Second Council; the Dipavamsa criticizes the Mahasangitikas (who are the same as
The Jātaka tales are a voluminous body of literature native to India concerning the previous births of Gautama Buddha in both human and animal form. The future Buddha may appear as a king, an outcast, a god, an elephant—but, in whatever form, he exhibits some virtue that the tale thereby inculcates. Jātaka tales include an extensive cast of characters who interact and get into various kinds of trouble - whereupon the Buddha character intervenes to resolve all the problems and bring about a happy ending. In Theravada Buddhism, the Jātakas are a textual division of the Pāli Canon, included in the Khuddaka Nikaya of the Sutta Pitaka; the term Jātaka may refer to a traditional commentary on this book. The Jātakas are amongst the earliest Buddhist literature, with metrical analysis methods dating their average contents to around the 4th century BCE; the Mahāsāṃghika Caitika sects from the Āndhra region took the Jātakas as canonical literature and are known to have rejected some of the Theravāda Jātakas which dated past the time of King Ashoka.
The Caitikas claimed that their own Jātakas represented the original collection before the Buddhist tradition split into various lineages. According to A. K. Warder, the Jātakas are the precursors to the various legendary biographies of the Buddha, which were composed at dates. Although many Jātakas were written from an early period, which describe previous lives of the Buddha little biographical material about Gautama's own life has been recorded; the Jātaka-Mālā of Arya Śura in Sanskrit gives 34 Jātaka stories. At the Ajanta Caves, Jātaka scenes are inscribed with quotes from Arya Shura, with script datable to the sixth century, it had been translated into Chinese in 434 CE. Borobudur contains depictions of all 34 Jatakas from Jataka Mala; the Theravāda Jātakas comprise 547 poems, arranged by an increasing number of verses. According to Professor von Hinüber, only the last 50 were intended to be intelligible by themselves, without commentary; the commentary gives stories in prose that it claims provide the context for the verses, it is these stories that are of interest to folklorists.
Alternative versions of some of the stories can be found in another book of the Pali Canon, the Cariyapitaka, a number of individual stories can be found scattered around other books of the Canon. Many of the stories and motifs found in the Jātaka such as the Rabbit in the Moon of the Śaśajātaka, are found in numerous other languages and media. For example, The Monkey and the Crocodile, The Turtle Who Couldn't Stop Talking and The Crab and the Crane that are listed below famously featured in the Hindu Panchatantra, the Sanskrit niti-shastra that ubiquitously influenced world literature. Many of the stories and motifs are translations from the Pali but others are instead derived from vernacular oral traditions prior to the Pali compositions. Sanskrit and Tibetan Jātaka stories tend to maintain the Buddhist morality of their Pali equivalents, but re-tellings of the stories in Persian and other languages sometimes contain significant amendments to suit their respective cultures. At the Mahathupa in Sri Lanka all 550 Jataka tales were represented inside of the reliquary chamber.
Reliquaries depict the Jataka tales. Many stupas in northern India are said to mark locations from the Jātaka tales. A stupa in Pushkalavati, in northwestern Pakistan, marks where Syama fulfilled his filial duty to his blind parents; the Mankiala stupa near Gujar Khan commemorates the spot where Prince Sattva sacrificed himself to feed baby tigers. Nearby the ascetic Ekasrnga was seduced by a beautiful woman. In Mangalura, Ksantivadin submitted to mutilation by a king. At Hadda Mountain a young Brahmin sacrificed himself to learn a half verse of the dharma. At Sarvadattaan an incarnation sold himself for ransom to make offerings to a Brahmin. Faxian describes the four great stupas as being adorned with precious substances. At one site king Sibi sacrifices his flesh to ransom a dove from a hawk. Another incarnation gave up his eyes; as King Candraprabha he cut off his head as a gift to a Brahmin. Some would sever their body parts in front of stupas. Within the Pali tradition, there are many apocryphal Jātakas of composition but these are treated as a separate category of literature from the "Official" Jātaka stories that have been more or less formally canonized from at least the 5th century — as attested to in ample epigraphic and archaeological evidence, such as extant illustrations in bas relief from ancient temple walls.
Apocryphal Jātakas of the Pali Buddhist canon, such as those belonging to the Paññāsa Jātaka collection, have been adapted to fit local culture in certain South East Asian countries and have been retold with amendments to the plots to better reflect Buddhist morals. In Theravada countries several of the longer tales such as "The Twelve Sisters" and the Vessantara Jataka are still performed in dance and formal recitation; such celebrations are associated with particular holidays on the lunar calendar used by Thailand, Sri Lanka and Laos. The standard Pali collection of jātakas, with canonical text embedded, has been translated by E. B. Cowell and others published in six volumes by Cambridge University Press, 1895-1907. There are numerous translations of selections and individual stories from various languages; the Jātaka-Mālā of Arya Śura was critically edited in the original Sanskrit by Hendrik Kern of the University
Pali or Magadhan is a Middle Indo-Aryan language native to the Indian subcontinent. It is studied because it is the language of the Pāli Canon or Tipiṭaka, is the sacred language of some religious texts of Hinduism and all texts of Theravāda Buddhism; the earliest archaeological evidence of the existence of canonical Pali comes from Pyu city-states inscriptions found in Burma dated to the mid 5th to mid 6th century CE. The word Pali is used as a name for the language of the Theravada canon. According to the Pali Text Society's Dictionary, the word seems to have its origins in commentarial traditions, wherein the Pāli was distinguished from the commentary or vernacular translation that followed it in the manuscript; as such, the name of the language has caused some debate among scholars of all ages. Both the long ā and retroflex ḷ are seen in Pāḷi. R. C. Childers translates the word as "series" and states that the language "bears the epithet in consequence of the perfection of its grammatical structure".
In the 19th century, the British Orientalist Robert Caesar Childers argued that the true or geographical name of the Pali language was Magadhi Prakrit, that because pāḷi means "line, series", the early Buddhists extended the meaning of the term to mean "a series of books", so pāḷibhāsā means "language of the texts". However, modern scholarship has regarded Pali as a mix of several Prakrit languages from around the 3rd century BCE, combined together and Sanskritized; the closest artifacts to Pali that have been found in India are Edicts of Ashoka found at Gujarat, in the west of India, leading some scholars to associate Pali with this region of western India. There is persistent confusion as to the relation of Pāḷi to the vernacular spoken in the ancient kingdom of Magadha, located around modern-day Bihār. Pali, as a Middle Indo-Aryan language, is different from Sanskrit more with regard to its dialectal base than the time of its origin. A number of its morphological and lexical features show that it is not a direct continuation of Ṛgvedic Vedic Sanskrit.
Instead it descends from one or more dialects that were, despite many similarities, different from Ṛgvedic. However, this view is not shared by all scholars. Some, like A. C. Woolner, believe that Pali is derived from Vedic Sanskrit, but not from Classical Sanskrit. Paiśācī is a unattested literary language of classical India, mentioned in Prakrit and Sanskrit grammars of antiquity, it is found grouped with the Prakrit languages, with which it shares some linguistic similarities, but was not considered a spoken language by the early grammarians because it was understood to have been purely a literary language. In works of Sanskrit poetics such as Daṇḍin's Kavyadarsha, it is known by the name of Bhūtabhāṣā, an epithet which can be interpreted as'dead language', or bhuta means past and bhasha means language i.e.'a language spoken in the past'. Evidence which lends support to this interpretation is that literature in Paiśācī is fragmentary and rare but may once have been common; the 13th-century Tibetan historian Buton Rinchen Drub wrote that the early Buddhist schools were separated by choice of sacred language: the Mahāsāṃghikas used Prākrit, the Sarvāstivādins used Sanskrit, the Sthaviravādins used Paiśācī, the Saṃmitīya used Apabhraṃśa.
This observation has lead some scholars to theorize connections between Pali and Paiśācī. Many Theravada sources refer to the Pali language as "Magadhan" or the "language of Magadha"; this identification first appears in the commentaries, may have been an attempt by Buddhists to associate themselves more with the Maurya Empire. But the four most important places in Buddha's life are all outside of it, it is that he taught in several related dialects of Middle Indo-Aryan, which had a high degree of mutual intelligibility. There is no attested dialect of Middle Indo-Aryan with all the features of Pali. Pali has some commonalities with both the western Ashokan Edicts at Girnar in Saurashtra, the Central-Western Prakrit found in the eastern Hathigumpha inscription; the similarities of the Saurashtran inscriptions to the Hathigumpha inscription may be misleading because the latter suggests the Ashokan scribe may not have translated the material he received from Magadha into the vernacular. Whatever the relationship of the Buddha's speech to Pali, the Canon was transcribed and preserved in it, while the commentarial tradition that accompanied it was translated into Sinhala and preserved in local languages for several generations.
In Sri Lanka, Pali is thought to have entered into a period of decline ending around the 4th or 5th century, but survived. The work of Buddhaghosa was responsible for its reemergence as an important scholarly language in Buddhist thought; the Visuddhimagga, the other commentaries that Buddhaghosa compiled and condensed the Sinhala commentarial tradition, preserved and expanded in Sri Lanka since the 3rd century BCE. T
The Mahayana sutras are a broad genre of Buddhist scriptures that various traditions of Mahayana Buddhism accept as canonical. They are preserved in the Chinese Buddhist canon, the Tibetan Buddhist canon, in extant Sanskrit manuscripts. Around one hundred Mahayana sutras survive in Chinese and Tibetan translations. Mahayana sutras are passed down as the legacy of Gautama Buddha: early versions were not written documents but orally preserved teachings said to be verses that were committed to memory and recited by his disciples, in particular Ananda, which were viewed as a substitute for the actual speech of the Buddha following his parinirvana; the origins of the Mahayana are not understood. The earliest views of Mahayana Buddhism in the West assumed that it existed as a separate school in competition with the Theravada schools. Due to the veneration of buddhas and bodhisattvas, Mahayana was interpreted as a more devotional, lay-inspired form of Buddhism, with supposed origins in stūpa veneration or by making parallels with the Reformation.
These views have been dismissed in modern times in light of a much broader range of early texts that are now available. These earliest Mahayana texts depict strict adherence to the path of a bodhisattva, engagement in the ascetic ideal of a monastic life in the wilderness, akin to the ideas expressed in the Rhinoceros Sutra; the old views of Mahayana as a separate lay-inspired and devotional sect are now dismissed as misguided and wrong on all counts. The early versions of Mahayana sutras orally preserved teachings; the verses which were committed to memory and recited by monks were viewed as the substitute for the actual speaking presence of the Buddha. The earliest textual evidence of the Mahayana comes from sutras originating around the beginning of the common era. Jan Nattier has noted that in some of the earliest Mahayana texts such as the Ugraparipṛcchā Sūtra use the term "Mahayana", yet there is no doctrinal difference between Mahayana in this context and the early schools, that "Mahayana" referred rather to the rigorous emulation of Gautama Buddha in the path of a bodhisattva seeking to become a enlightened buddha.
There is no evidence that Mahayana referred to a separate formal school or sect of Buddhism, but rather that it existed as a certain set of ideals, doctrines, for bodhisattvas. Paul Williams has noted that the Mahayana never had nor attempted to have a separate Vinaya or ordination lineage from the early Buddhist schools and therefore each bhikṣu or bhikṣuṇī adhering to the Mahayana formally belonged to an early school; this continues today with the Dharmaguptaka ordination lineage in East Asia and the Mūlasarvāstivāda ordination lineage in Tibetan Buddhism. Therefore, Mahayana was never a separate rival sect of the early schools; the Chinese monk Yijing who visited India in the seventh century, distinguishes Mahayana from Hinayana as follows: Both adopt one and the same Vinaya, they have in common the prohibitions of the five offences, the practice of the Four Noble Truths. Those who venerate the bodhisattvas and read the Mahayana sutras are called the Mahayanists, while those who do not perform these are called the Hīnayānists.
Much of the early extant evidence for the origins of Mahayana comes from early Chinese translations of Mahayana texts. These Mahayana teachings were first propagated into China by Lokakṣema, the first translator of Mahayana sutras into Chinese during the second century; some scholars take an agnostic view and consider the Mahayana sutras as an anonymous literature, since it can not be determined by whom they were written, only can be dated to the date when they were translated into another language. Others such as A. K. Warder have argued. Andrew Skilton summarizes a common prevailing view of the Mahayana sutras: These texts are considered by Mahayana tradition to be buddhavacana, therefore the legitimate word of the historical Buddha; the śrāvaka tradition, according to some Mahayana sutras themselves, rejected these texts as authentic buddhavacana, saying that they were inventions, the product of the religious imagination of the Mahayanist monks who were their fellows. Western scholarship does not go so far as to impugn the religious authority of Mahayana sutras, but it tends to assume that they are not the literal word of the historical Śākyamuni Buddha.
Unlike the śrāvaka critics just cited, we have no possibility of knowing just who composed and compiled these texts, for us, removed from the time of their authors by up to two millenia, they are an anonymous literature. It is accepted that Mahayana sutras constitute a body of literature that began to appear from as early as the 1st century BCE, although the evidence for this date is circumstantial; the concrete evidence for dating any part of this literature is to be found in dated Chinese translations, amongst which we find a body of ten Mahayana sutras translated by Lokaksema before 186 C. E. – and these constitute our earliest objectively dated Mahayana texts. This picture may be qualified by the analysis of early manuscripts coming out of Afghanistan, but for the meantime this is speculation. In effect we have a vast body of anonymous but coherent literature, of which individual items can only be dated when they were translated into another language at a known date. John W. Pettit, while stating, "Mahayana has not got a strong historical claim for representing the explicit teachings of the historical Buddha" argues that the basic concepts of Mahayana do occur in the Pāli Canon and that this suggests that Mahayana is "not an accretion of fabricated doctrines" but "
Abhidharma or Abhidhamma are ancient Buddhist texts which contain detailed scholastic reworkings of doctrinal material appearing in the Buddhist sutras, according to schematic classifications. The Abhidhamma works do not contain systematic philosophical treatises, but summaries or abstract and systematic lists. According to Collett Cox, Abhidhamma started as an elaboration of the teachings of the suttas, but developed independent doctrines; the literal translation of the term Abhidharma is unclear. Two possibilities are most given: abhi "higher, exceeding" and dharma, "teaching, philosophy," thus making Abhidharma the "higher teachings"; the Theravadin and Sarvastivadin Abhidharmikas considered the Abhidharma to be the pure and literal description of ultimate truth and an expression of unsullied wisdom, while the sutras were considered'conventional' and figurative teachings, given by the Buddha to specific people, at specific times, depending on specific worldly circumstances. They held that Abhidharma was taught by the Buddha to his most eminent disciples, that therefore this justified the inclusion of Abhidharma texts into their scriptural canon.
Some in the West have considered the Abhidhamma to be the core of what is referred to as "Buddhism and psychology". Other writers on the topic such as Nyanaponika Thera and Dan Lusthaus describe Abhidhamma as a Buddhist phenomenology while Noa Ronkin and Kenneth Inada equate it with Process philosophy. Bhikkhu Bodhi writes that the system of the Abhidhamma Pitaka is "simultaneously a philosophy, a psychology and an ethics, all integrated into the framework of a program for liberation." Abhidharma analysis extended into the fields of ontology and metaphysics. The prominent Western scholar of Abhidharma, Erich Frauwallner has said that these Buddhist systems are "among the major achievements of the classical period of Indian philosophy." In the commentaries of Theravada Buddhism it was held that the Abhidhamma was not a addition to the tradition, but rather represented in the fourth week of Gautama Buddha's enlightenment. Optimistic devas created a beautiful jeweled chamber. Buddha, after spending the 3rd week dispelling mistrust and sitting inside it meditated on what was known as the "Higher Doctrine".
His mind and body were so purified that six-coloured rays came out of his body — blue, red, orange and a mixture of these five. The mixed color represented all these noble qualities, he traveled to the Trāyastriṃśa and taught the Abhidhamma to the divine beings that dwelled there, including his deceased mother Māyā, who had re-arisen as a celestial being. The tradition holds that the Buddha gave daily summaries of the teachings given in the heavenly realm to the bhikkhu Sariputta, who passed them on; the Abhidhamma is thus presented as a pure and undiluted form of the teaching, too difficult for most practitioners of the Buddha's time to grasp. Instead, the Buddha taught by the method related in the various suttas, giving appropriate applicable teachings as each situation arose, rather than attempting to set forth the Abhidhamma in all its complexity and completeness. Thus, there is a similarity between the traditions of the Adhidhamma and that of the Mahayana, which claimed to be too difficult for the people living in the Buddha's time.
The Sarvastivadin Vaibhasikas held that the Buddha and his disciples taught the Abhidharma, but that it was scattered throughout the canon. Only after his death was the Abhidharma compiled systematically by his elder disciples and was recited by Ananda at the first Buddhist council; the Sautrāntika school rejected the status of the Abhidharma as being Buddhavacana, they held it was the work of different monks after his death, that this was the reason different Abhidharma schools varied in their doctrines. Scholars believe that the Abhidharma emerged after the time of the Buddha, in around the 3rd century BCE. Therefore, the seven Abhidhamma works are claimed by scholars not to represent the words of the Buddha himself, but those of disciples and scholars. Factors contributing to its development could have been the growth of monastic centers, the growing support for the Buddhist sangha, outside influences from other religious groups; as the last major division of the canon, the Abhidhamma works have had a checkered history.
They were not accepted as canonical by several other schools. Another school included most of the Khuddaka Nikaya within the Abhidhamma Pitaka; the Pali version of the Abhidhamma is a Theravada collection, has little in common with the Abhidhamma works recognized by other Buddhist schools. The Theravadin Abhidhamma is in some respects rather skeletal, with the details not fleshed out. According to Rupert Gethin however, obvious care and ingenuity have gone into its development; the Abhidhamma philosophies of the various early schools disagree on doctrine and belong to the period of'Divided Buddhism'. The earliest texts of the Pali Canon have no mention of the Abhidhamma Pitaka; the Abhidhamma is not mentioned at the report of the First Buddhist Council, directly after the death of the Buddha. This report of the first council does mention the existence of the V