The myth of "Sthaviravada"

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Assaji
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The myth of "Sthaviravada"

Post by Assaji » Tue Feb 14, 2017 5:59 pm

Hi,

There's a popular buddhological construct of "Sthaviravada" - an enigmatic early school, quite different from Theravada.

Caodemarte summed it up nicely:
Caodemarte wrote:From
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_Buddhist_schools

"Noted Canadian Buddhist scholar A.K. Warder (University of Toronto) identifies the following eighteen early Buddhist schools (in approximate chronological order): Sthaviravada, Mahasamgha, Vatsiputriya, Ekavyavaharika, Gokulika (a.k.a. Kukkutika, etc.), Sarvastivada, Lokottaravada, Dharmottariya, Bhadrayaniya, Sammitiya, Sannagarika, Bahusrutiya, Prajnaptivada, Mahisasaka, Haimavata (a.k.a. Kasyapiya), Dharmaguptaka, Caitika, and the Apara and Uttara (Purva) Saila. Warder says that these were the early Buddhist schools as of circa 50 BCE, about the same time that the Pali Canon was first committed to writing and the presumptive origin date of the Theravada sect, though the term 'theravada' was not used before the fourth century CE (see Ajahn Sucitto, "What Is Theravada" (2012); see also A.K. Warder, Indian Buddhism, 3rd rev. ed. (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2000), chapters 8 and 9"
Caodemarte wrote:Since as a distinct movement Theravada claims to have looked back to the 3rd Council (which may or may not have occurred) for inspiration they clearly could not have begun before that date. (Damien Keown's A Dictionary of Buddhism. 2003. pp. 279-280 states there is no historical evidence that the Theravāda school arose until around two centuries after the putative Third Council).

By its own accounts, Theravada seems to have come out of a Sthaviravadin sub-sect and seems to share certain doctrines. This is not the same as saying Theravada is Sthaviravada as some Theravadin legends dubiously claim, but that they were influenced or inspired by or Sthaviravada or were an off-shoot of a sub-sect seems likely. Sadly, there is zero actual evidence for this apart from one obviously forged Sri Lankan history.


There's a tiny problem with this "Sthaviravada" construct - it's a figment of imagination unattested in any Sanskrit sources. This word was invented by some buddhologist, who haplessly sanskritized the word "Theravada", probably under the influence of another myth - that Sanskrit existed earlier then Pali.

This issue has been discussed in detail on H-Buddhism conference:
https://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse ... &user=&pw=
http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse. ... &user=&pw=
http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse. ... &user=&pw=
https://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse ... &user=&pw=


A recent modification of this myth is that the enigmatic early school, which parted ways with Mahasanghika, was called "Arya-Sthavira Nikaya". That's indeed an improvement, since such term is attested in numerous Sanskrit sources.
Nyana wrote:Also, the 12th century northern Indian author Daśabalaśrīmitra refers to the Sthaviras and quotes extensively from the Vimuttimagga which he states is the "Āgama of the Ārya-Sthavira-nikāya." And the 19th century Tibetan author Jamgön Kongtrül also mentions the Sthaviras by name and, relying on Vinītadeva's Nikāyabhedopadeśasaṃgraha, also states that the "Jetavanīyas, Abhayagirikas, and Mahāvihārins are the [three] Sthaviras."

http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f= ... 85#p210285


However, at the time of Mahasanghika split, Sanskrit didn't yet exist. Lingua franca was still a language similar to Pali, preserved in inscriptions:
All in all, the Aśokan inscriptions give a broad view of the dialect spectrum of MIA vernaculars in the third century B.C. But it must also be understood that they do not provide anything like a real dialectal map of the time. For the geographical distribution of the dialects - especially of the eastern dialect - can hardly correspond with linguistic reality; the eastern dialect was obviously not the mother tongue of residents of the far north and the central south, though it was used for inscriptions (Kālsī, Eṛṛaguḍi, etc.) in those regions. Moreover, the languages as they are presented in the inscriptions are surely not exact renditions of the contemporary vernaculars.

...

After the Mauryan period there is a major shift in the linguistic features of the inscriptional Prakrits. The predominance of the eastern dialect of the Aśokan and other inscriptions of the Mauryan period ends abruptly; in fact, not a single inscriptional record in eastern dialect has been found from the post-Mauryan era. The dominant role in all regions except the northwest and Sri Lanka falls hereafter to a variety of Prakrit which most resembles, among the Aśokan dialects, the western dialect of the Girnār rock edicts, and which among literary languages has the most in common with Pāli and archaic forms of Śauraseni. In other words, this dialect partakes of the typical characteristics of the western and central MIA languages: nominative singular masculine in -o, retention of Sanskrit r and l, predominance of the sibilant s, and so on. Like the Aśokan Prakrits, this central-western epigraphic Prakrit is still relatively archaic, with only occasional intervocalic voicing of unvoiced stops and elision of voiced stops. But unlike some of the Aśokan inscriptions, consonant groups from Sanskrit are nearly always assimilated.

The causes of the abrupt dialectal shift from east to west undoubtedly lie in political and historical developments, that is, the decline of Magadha as the center of power in northern India after the collapse of the Mauryan empire and the movement of the center of political power in the following centuries toward the west and northwest. Like the eastern dialect under Aśoka, the central-western dialect of the post-Mauryan era was used far beyond what must have been its original homeland. Thus we find inscriptions in this standard epigraphic Prakrit as far afield as Orissa in the east, for instance, in the Hāthīgumphā inscription (SI 1.213-21), while in the south it is abundantly attested in inscriptions from such sites as Nāgārjunakoṇḍa and Amarāvatī. This central-western MIA dialect was, in fact, virtually the sole language in epigraphic use in the period in question, and therefore seems, like Pāli, to have developed into something like a northern Indian lingua franca, at least for epigraphic purposes, in the last two centuries B.C.

This is not to say that the inscriptions in this dialect, which Senart called "Monumental Prakrit", are totally devoid of local variations. ... But all in all, the standard epigraphic or "Monumental" Prakrit can be treated as essentially a single language whose use spread far beyond its place of origin, and which should not be taken to represent the local vernacular of every region and period where it appears.

R. Salomon - Indian Epigraphy: A Guide to the Study of Inscriptions in Sanskrit, Prakrit, and the other Indo-Aryan Languages

https://books.google.com/books?id=XYrG0 ... &q&f=false
https://archive.org/stream/IndianEpigra ... /mode/2up/
So the sanskritized term "Sthavira" appeared only later, when Sanskrit was invented and gained wide currency. The original term was "Thera".

Best wishes, Dmytro
Last edited by Assaji on Sun Feb 19, 2017 11:28 am, edited 2 times in total.

Caodemarte
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Re: The myth of "Sthaviravada"

Post by Caodemarte » Tue Feb 14, 2017 10:02 pm

Dmytro wrote: There's a popular buddhological construct of "Sthaviravada" - an enigmatic early school, quite different from Theravada....
However, at the time of Mahasanghika split, Sanskrit didn't yet exist. Lingua franca was still a language similar to Pali, preserved in inscriptions...
Interesting stuff on the names! Just a note that it seems clear that there was sect or movement that called itself the Elders or was referred to by others under that name. AFAIK, it is not generally claimed that these " Sthavira" were quite different from what we now know as Theravada, but merely not the same (Theravada histories and claims are that it derived from a sect that broke away from a sect that broke away from this faction (or "dissolved into" rather than "break away" ). Sadly, we lack historical evidence, but if we accept these accounts (and why not?) it is clear that "Sthavira" (or whatever the earlier group called itself) does not equal what we now know as Theravada, but at best would be ancestors or a source of inspiration. Similarly, the Pali of the canon was so standardized, homogenized, and "reformed" by the grammarians and commentators of Sri Lanka that it cannot be said to be pre-"reformed" Pali, but can be said to be derived from it.

None of this inevitable evolution has much to do with the truth or usefulness of any teaching, but is interesting from the historical point of view.

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Re: The myth of "Sthaviravada"

Post by rajitha7 » Wed Feb 15, 2017 1:11 am

Dmytro wrote:There's a popular buddhological construct of "Sthaviravada" - an enigmatic early school, quite different from Theravada..


Well, the Buddha said the following.
"Enough, Vakkali! What is there to see in this vile body? He who sees Dhamma, Vakkali, sees me; he who sees me sees Dhamma. Truly seeing Dhamma, one sees me; seeing me one sees Dhamma."
-SN 22.87
The Mahāsāṃghika takes the above quote literally. The Sthaviravada wants to understand it figuratively. Both wants to "see" the Dhamma. Although the method of discovery differs.

Ven. Bikkhu Bodhi Summararies thus,



So the Mahayanist/Mahāsāṃghika puts a heavy emphasis on the recollection of the Buddha by his physical attributes. The devotional side, the "pure lands" and remembering Bodhisattvas take a primary position. The Arhat ideal is rejected.

The Theravada/Sthaviravada on the other hand, take the Buddha's quote above figurately. They understand it to mean, those who understand Buddha's teachings understand the Buddha. They embrace the Arhat ideal. Even though they embrace the Arhat ideal they do not reject the Boddhisatva ideal either. Boddhistavas are rare and special beings such as Gautama and Maitree that discover the 4-Noble Truth by themselves.

So the two great vehicles were born. The Buddhist Sects that exist today must have started as either Mahāsāṃghika or Sthavira. It then follows Theravada must be a school that emerged out of Sthaviravada.

Etymologically, both Sthaviravada and Theravada suggest a teaching taught by "The Elders" or "The elder experienced Monks". The way they interpreted the Buddha quote above supports that idea.
Unsurpassed is the Lord’s way of teaching the Dhamma concerning one’s proper moral conduct. One should be honest and faithful, without deception, chatter, hinting or belittling, not always ready to add gain to gain, but with the sense-doors guarded, moderate in food, a promoter of peace, observant, active and strenuous in effort, a meditator, mindful, with proper conversation, steady-going, resolute and sensible, not hankering after sense pleasures, but mindful and prudent. This is the unsurpassed teaching concerning a person’s proper ethical conduct. - Sampasādanīya, Dīgha Nikāya 28

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Re: The myth of "Sthaviravada"

Post by retrofuturist » Wed Feb 15, 2017 1:32 am

Greetings Dmytro,
Dmytro wrote:There's a popular buddhological construct of "Sthaviravada" - an enigmatic early school, quite different from Theravada.
So you're saying it's.... Fake News? 8-)

Metta,
Paul. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

“Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” (Flannery O'Connor)

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Re: The myth of "Sthaviravada"

Post by Caodemarte » Wed Feb 15, 2017 3:53 am

rajitha7 wrote:
The Mahāsāṃghika takes the above quote literally. The Sthaviravada wants to understand it figuratively. Both wants to "see" the Dhamma. Although the method of discovery differs.....So the Mahayanist/Mahāsāṃghika puts a heavy emphasis on the recollection of the Buddha by his physical attributes. The devotional side, the "pure lands" and remembering Bodhisattvas take a primary position. The Arhat ideal is rejected.

The Theravada/Sthaviravada on the other hand, take the Buddha's quote above figurately. They understand it to mean, those who understand Buddha's teachings understand the Buddha. They embrace the Arhat ideal. Even though they embrace the Arhat ideal they do not reject the Boddhisatva ideal either. Boddhistavas are rare and special beings such as Gautama and Maitree that discover the 4-Noble Truth by themselves.

So the two great vehicles were born. The Buddhist Sects that exist today must have started as either Mahāsāṃghika or Sthavira. It then follows Theravada must be a school that emerged out of Sthaviravada.

Etymologically, both Sthaviravada and Theravada suggest a teaching taught by "The Elders" or "The elder experienced Monks". The way they interpreted the Buddha quote above supports that idea.
The origin of the Buddhist sects is very complex with more than two sources. I personally go with the theory that lineage issues were a far more important factor in their early formation than any doctrinal differences or differences in emphasis (as it is in modern times).

The interesting talk you included does not really support your comments about the nature of the Mahayana. Do you happen to have any other references handy?

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Re: The myth of "Sthaviravada"

Post by rajitha7 » Wed Feb 15, 2017 3:59 am

Caodemarte wrote: The origin of the Buddhist sects is very complex with more than two sources. I personally go with the theory that lineage issues were a far more important factor in their early formation than any doctrinal differences or differences in emphasis (as it is in modern times).

The interesting talk you included does not really support your comments about the nature of the Mahayana. Do you happen to have any other references handy?
I will look for it and post in a few minutes.

Although, what is the sect you follow? What is the reason you do so?
Unsurpassed is the Lord’s way of teaching the Dhamma concerning one’s proper moral conduct. One should be honest and faithful, without deception, chatter, hinting or belittling, not always ready to add gain to gain, but with the sense-doors guarded, moderate in food, a promoter of peace, observant, active and strenuous in effort, a meditator, mindful, with proper conversation, steady-going, resolute and sensible, not hankering after sense pleasures, but mindful and prudent. This is the unsurpassed teaching concerning a person’s proper ethical conduct. - Sampasādanīya, Dīgha Nikāya 28

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Re: The myth of "Sthaviravada"

Post by Caodemarte » Wed Feb 15, 2017 4:21 am

rajitha7 wrote:...Although, what is the sect you follow? What is the reason you do so?
If you are interested, I try to follow or realize Buddhism. I practice with a Rinzai Zen group on retreats and also sit with a group in a mixed Soto/Rinzai tradition. I do so because Zen really speaks to me, possibly because Rinzai Zen was my first exposure to Buddhism. That said, I am very interested in Theravada and often find Theravada teachings very applicable and helpful (as do my teachers). Intellectually I am interested in Buddhist history. What about you?

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Re: The myth of "Sthaviravada"

Post by rajitha7 » Wed Feb 15, 2017 4:24 am

“He who sees me sees the Dharma; he who sees the Dharma sees me.”

Thus arose an understanding that the Truth Body was different to the world of appearances as it appears on The Wheel of Life. This is not to say that it literally lay ‘beyond’ this world rather it was unrealised. What we see is the manifestation of Dharma activity without being aware of the source of that activity.

Thus we have two ways of perceiving Buddha:

Dharmakaya – Truth Body – the ultimate truth
Nirmanakaya – manifestation body- as they appear

The Yogacarins formalised this teaching by adding a third body to form the Trikaya or Three Bodies of the Buddha.

This third body is the interface between the other two and is referred to ‘The Bliss Body’ or ‘The Body of Light or Illumination’.

http://www.thezengateway.com/vasubandhu ... ara-school
The Zen Buddhists have 3 ways of perceiving the Buddha. It is all related to his physical appearance.

Although Theravada takes the view, when Buddha uttered those words, he meant those who see his teachings, see him. He did not mean to look at his physical body.
Caodemarte wrote:What about you?
I am a Theravadin.
Unsurpassed is the Lord’s way of teaching the Dhamma concerning one’s proper moral conduct. One should be honest and faithful, without deception, chatter, hinting or belittling, not always ready to add gain to gain, but with the sense-doors guarded, moderate in food, a promoter of peace, observant, active and strenuous in effort, a meditator, mindful, with proper conversation, steady-going, resolute and sensible, not hankering after sense pleasures, but mindful and prudent. This is the unsurpassed teaching concerning a person’s proper ethical conduct. - Sampasādanīya, Dīgha Nikāya 28

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Re: The myth of "Sthaviravada"

Post by Caodemarte » Wed Feb 15, 2017 4:40 am

rajitha7 wrote:
“He who sees me sees the Dharma; he who sees the Dharma sees me.”

Thus arose an understanding that the Truth Body was different to the world of appearances as it appears on The Wheel of Life. This is not to say that it literally lay ‘beyond’ this world rather it was unrealised. What we see is the manifestation of Dharma activity without being aware of the source of that activity.

Thus we have two ways of perceiving Buddha:

Dharmakaya – Truth Body – the ultimate truth
Nirmanakaya – manifestation body- as they appear

The Yogacarins formalised this teaching by adding a third body to form the Trikaya or Three Bodies of the Buddha.

This third body is the interface between the other two and is referred to ‘The Bliss Body’ or ‘The Body of Light or Illumination’.

http://www.thezengateway.com/vasubandhu ... ara-school
The Zen Buddhists have 3 ways of perceiving the Buddha. It is all related to his physical appearance.

Although Theravada takes the view, when Buddha uttered those words, he meant those who see his teachings, see him. He did not mean to look at his physical body.
Caodemarte wrote:What about you?
I am a Theravadin.

I would not agree with your apparent interpretation of your source, but thanks for sharing. That site looks quite interesting to me. However, I think it might be best if we both now get :focus:

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Re: The myth of "Sthaviravada"

Post by Assaji » Wed Feb 15, 2017 9:16 am

Caodemarte wrote:Interesting stuff on the names! Just a note that it seems clear that there was sect or movement that called itself the Elders or was referred to by others under that name.
Yes, indeed.
Caodemarte wrote:AFAIK, it is not generally claimed that these " Sthavira" were quite different from what we now know as Theravada, but merely not the same
Well, I'm not the same as I was yesterday. Yet the name remains the same.
And Indian scholars of 8th-12th centuries described "Arya Sthavira Nikaya" as three Sri Lankan schools: Jetavaniya, Abhayagirivasin and Mahaviharavasin.
Caodemarte wrote:Theravada histories and claims are that it derived from a sect that broke away from a sect that broke away from this faction (or "dissolved into" rather than "break away")
Why do you think so?

The Dīpavaṃsa:
Seventeen are the schismatic sects, and there is one that is not schismatic; together with that which is not schismatic, they are eighteen in all. That of the Theravādins, which is even like a great banyan tree, is the most excellent: the complete teaching of the Conqueror, free from omissions or admissions.
The Kathāvatthu commentary:
In that second century only two schools seceded from the Theravāda: the (1) Mahiṃsāsakas and the (2) Vajjiputtakas.

Now seceding from the Vajjiputtakas four other schools arose: the (3) Dhammuttariyas, the (4) Bhadrayānikas, the (5) Channāgarikas and the (6) Saṃmitiyas. Again, in that second century, seceding from the Mahiṃsāsakas, two schools arose: the (7) Sabbatthivādins and the (8) Dhammaguttikas. Then again, falling off from the Sabbatthivādins, arose the (9) Kassapikas. And the Kassapikas splitting up, the (10) Saṅkantikas came into existence. The Saṅkantikas splitting up, there arose the (11) Suttavādins. Thus, falling off from the Theravādins, arose these eleven schools. These together with the Theravādins were twelve.
If we accept these accounts (and why not?) it is clear that "Sthavira" (or whatever the earlier group called itself) does equal what we now know as Theravada.
Caodemarte wrote:Similarly, the Pali of the canon was so standardized, homogenized, and "reformed" by the grammarians and commentators of Sri Lanka that it cannot be said to be pre-"reformed" Pali, but can be said to be derived from it.
Why do you think so?

Oskar von Hinuber, in his provocatively-named article "Pāli as an Artificial Language", found only a few minor probable instances of stylization, - first of all, the conversion of "-ttā" absolutive suffix into "-tvā".

Indian lingua franca remained similar to Pali for centuries, as evidenced by rock inscriptions.

Here's an example of early manuscript that didn't undergo full stylization:

The Oldest Pāli Manuscript. Four Folios of the Vinaya-Piṭaka from the National Archives, Kathmandu. (Untersuchungen zur Sprachgeschichte und Handschriftenkunde des Pāli II) by Oskar von Hinüber

http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2 ... 4532913291

The differences are quite minor.

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Re: The myth of "Sthaviravada"

Post by Assaji » Wed Feb 15, 2017 9:24 am

rajitha7 wrote:The Buddhist Sects that exist today must have started as either Mahāsāṃghika or Sthavira.
How could they use the sanskritized title "Sthavira", if the Sanskrit didn't yet exist at the time of the split?
It then follows Theravada must be a school that emerged out of Sthaviravada.


How come that this "Sthaviravada" isn't mentioned in any Sanskrit text - only in the works of some modern buddhologists?

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Re: The myth of "Sthaviravada"

Post by Assaji » Wed Feb 15, 2017 9:26 am

Greetings Paul,
retrofuturist wrote:So you're saying it's.... Fake News? 8-)
Alternative facts :D

Metta,
Dmytro

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Re: The myth of "Sthaviravada"

Post by _anicca_ » Wed Feb 15, 2017 9:41 am

While it is the most unperturbed form of Buddhism, anyone who says that Theravada was one of the early Buddhist schools is incorrect.

Theravada was initially a word that people used to refer to a group of Buddhists on an Island in Sri Lanka.

A lot of the early Buddhist schools have been incorporated into Theravada, but this could be said for any of the three vehicles.
"A virtuous monk, Kotthita my friend, should attend in an appropriate way to the five clinging-aggregates as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a dissolution, an emptiness, not-self."

:buddha1:

http://vipassanameditation.asia

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Re: The myth of "Sthaviravada"

Post by Assaji » Wed Feb 15, 2017 10:10 am

_anicca_ wrote:Theravada was initially a word that people used to refer to a group of Buddhists on an Island in Sri Lanka.
Why do you think so? I have not met with such usage.

Rupert Gethin writes:
Buddhists from the Indian mainland appear originally to have regarded the Buddhists of Laṅkā as simply the ‘Laṅkā school’, thus Vasubandhu writing in the fourth century cites the notion of the bhavāṅga-vijñāna of the Tāmraparṇīya-nikāya as a forerunner of the ālaya-vijñāna. But beginning with Yijing’s account of his travels in India (671–695 ce ) and Vinītadeva’s eighth-century summary of the divisions of the Buddhist schools (Samaya-bhedoparacana- cakra-nikāya-bhedopadarśana-cakra), we find north Indian sources describing the Buddhist Saṅgha as comprising four nikāyas: (1) the Mahāsāṃghikas, (2) the Sthāviras, (3) the Sarvāstivādins, and (4) the Saṃmatīyas. Significantly, the Sthāviras in turn comprise three sub-nikāyas: the Jetavanīyas, the Abhayagirivāsins, and the Mahāvihāravāsins. The Buddhists of Laṅkā are thus no longer regarded as the ‘Laṅkā school’, they are the Sthāviras, despite the fact that both the Sarvāstivādins and the Saṃmatīyas were also understood as tracing their lineage to the Sthāvira side of the original split with the Mahāsāṃghikas.

https://www.academia.edu/24142416/Was_B ... chronicles

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Re: The myth of "Sthaviravada"

Post by Assaji » Wed Feb 15, 2017 10:16 am

Dmytro wrote:The Dīpavaṃsa:
Seventeen are the schismatic sects, and there is one that is not schismatic; together with that which is not schismatic, they are eighteen in all. That of the Theravādins, which is even like a great banyan tree, is the most excellent: the complete teaching of the Conqueror, free from omissions or admissions.
The Kathāvatthu commentary:
In that second century only two schools seceded from the Theravāda: the (1) Mahiṃsāsakas and the (2) Vajjiputtakas.

Now seceding from the Vajjiputtakas four other schools arose: the (3) Dhammuttariyas, the (4) Bhadrayānikas, the (5) Channāgarikas and the (6) Saṃmitiyas. Again, in that second century, seceding from the Mahiṃsāsakas, two schools arose: the (7) Sabbatthivādins and the (8) Dhammaguttikas. Then again, falling off from the Sabbatthivādins, arose the (9) Kassapikas. And the Kassapikas splitting up, the (10) Saṅkantikas came into existence. The Saṅkantikas splitting up, there arose the (11) Suttavādins. Thus, falling off from the Theravādins, arose these eleven schools. These together with the Theravādins were twelve.
President of the Pali Text Society, Rupert Gethin writes:
The Kathāvatthu-aṭṭhakathā’s use of theravāda in the context of different schools of Buddhism seems in fact to be borrowed directly from the Dīpavaṃsa; as we shall see, this usage is also taken up by the Mahāvaṃsa. It is worth noting that even where theravāda is used in the earlier sources in the context of the ancient schools of Buddhism, it is not clear that we should think of precisely theravāda as the name. It is not impossible that the compounded thera itself should be taken as the name of the school, either as the plural ‘elders’, or as an adjective in the sense of ‘belonging to the elders’ and qualifying a vāda or nikāya; thera in the expression theravāda might simply be an alternative form of theriya, a term that appears to be used unambiguously in the Mahāvaṃsa to refer to one of the parties in the first division of the Saṅgha after the second council. I make this suggestion on the basis of the way the Kathāvatthu commentary talks of the eighteen ancient schools of Buddhism as ācariya-kula or ācariya-vāda; the list includes the Mahisāsakas and Vajjiputtakas, who are then referred to as the Mahisāsaka-vāda and Vajjiputtaka-vāda, suggesting that vāda is not so much part of the name of the school as simply a term for ‘school’ or ‘tradition’, just like nikāya, which is also used here. Also of note in this context is the way in which the subcommentary to the Kathāvatthu commentary explains the Dīpavaṃsa’s (V 52) syntactically rather awkward theravādānam uttamo:
Here thera is specified without any case ending; thera is in the sense of ‘that of the elders’. What does it refer to? The tradition (vāda). ‘That of the elders is the highest of traditions,’ is what is meant.
In other words, we can understand the expression theravāda in the Dīpavaṃsa and Mahāvaṃsa as equivalent to theriya-vāda and as meaning strictly ‘the tradition belonging to the elders’; Thera-vāda would simply be an alternative to Theriya-nikāya, although the latter expression seems not to be found in Pali literature. That there is some uncertainty about the use of the full expression theravāda as the proper name of a school is perhaps a minor point. Yet since the expected Sanskrit equivalent sthāviravāda seems not to be found in the ancient sources, it is a point still worth making as it suggests that the Pali sources may not be as out of line with other ancient Indian Buddhist sources in their use of terminology as might otherwise appear. For Buddhist Sanskrit sources, Edgerton cites simply Ārya-Sthāviras (paralleling Ārya-Saṃmatīyas and Ārya-Sarvāstivādas) and Ārya-Sthāvarīya-nikāya. All this suggests that strictly we should think of Pali Thera and Theriya as the proper names of a school, rather than Thera-vāda.

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