1. The topography of Kosambī and its location according to the early Buddhist scriptural sources
2. Ghosita-setthi's taking refuge in the Buddha and the building of the Ghositārāma
3. The royal family of Kosambī and Buddhism
4. Pindola Bhāradvāja
5. Sāgata and the rule against the use of alcohol
6. The great schism at Kosambī
7. Kosambī and the bhikkhu Channa
8. Kosambī and Ānanda
9. An estimation of the chronology of Sakyamuni' s activities in Kosambī
10. Conclusion: A short history of Kosambī Buddhism
Kosambī, Ghosita-setthi, Ghositārāma, King Udena, Sāmāvatī, Māgandiyā, Khujjuttarā, Prince Bodhi, Pindola Bhāradvāja, Sāgata, Ānanda, Channa, schism
This essay uses the primary sources of the Pali and Chinese early Buddhist scriptural sources and the secondary sources of the Pali Atthakathas and Buddha biography texts to study Sakyamuni's activities in Kosambī; people connected with the Kosambī court, such as Ghosita-setthi of Kosambī, King Udena and his consorts Sāmāvatī, Māgandiyā and Sāmāvatī's attendant Khujjuttarā, Prince Bodhi, the son of King Udena; bhikkhus with a close connection with Kosambī, such as Pindola Bhāradvāja, Sāgata, Ānanda and Channa; and the great schism of Kosambī. By analysing this broad range of sources, it considers when and by whom Buddhism was brought to Kosambī as well as the characteristic features of Kosambī Buddhism. The conclusion, in the form of "A short history of Kosambī Buddhism," is quoted in its entirety in place.
As a result of the above considerations, we have drawn up "A short history of Kosambī Buddhism," which is also intended as a summary of Article 16.
(1) According to the Chinese calendar, Sakyamuni attained enlightenment under the bodhi tree on the fifteenth day of the second month. Calculating his age at the time from when he was conceived, this would have been when he was exactly 35 years and ten months. He turned 36 in the following fourth month, on the fifteenth day. He spent the rainy season that year in Uruvelā, and during that time he determined to teach the truth that he had attained in his enlightenment. At the end of the rainy season he moved to Isipatana near Benares, the site of the Deer Park (Migadāya). There he joined his former five companions and preached to them the first discourse. Here too Yasa joined them and became a disciple. Sakyamuni spent his 37th birthday there, and passed the rainy season there, the second after his enlightenment. At its end he sent his disciples to teach in many countries, and himself returned to Uruvelā. This he did in order to convert the powerful Uruvela-Kassapa and his two brothers to his teaching.
Sakyamuni spent the third rainy season in Uruvelā, while he was teaching and converting the three Kassapa brothers and their thousand disciples. His own disciples, who were spreading his teachings in other places, had to return to Sakyamuni in Uruvelā whenever they had an applicant to join the Saṃgha, for the Buddha to accept. This was exhausting, and furthermore it prevented Sakyamuni from leaving Uruvelā. Thus Sakyamuni allowed his disciples to accept applicants on their own using the Triple Refuge. This meant that his disciples were able to take their own disciples. Until that time, all new followers had been acknowledged as the Buddha's direct disciples, through the formula of "ehi bhikkhu pabbajjā" (Come, bhikkhu). By being given permission to use the Triple Refuge, the disciples formed what became the prototype of the "Saṃghas led by the Buddha's disciples." This change occurred during the seventh rainy season after Sakyamuni's return to Uruvelā; it was ten years after the enlightenment and Sakyamuni was 45 years old.
Since there was now no need to stay around Uruvelā and Gaya waiting for the disciples to return, Sakyamuni moved to Rājagaha, where he converted King Bimbisāra, as well as Sāriputta, Moggallāna and their 250 companions. This happened either the same year or the next, that is, in the tenth or eleventh year after enlightenment. Pindola Bhāradvāja was one of those converted at this time. This marked the formation of that the sutras often refer to as "the 1,250 person Bhikkhu Saṃgha of Sakyamuni."
Sakyamuni's Saṃgha had grown rapidly, but because his disciples could take their own followers, there were cases of unsuitable people being ordained and of improper behaviour among the ordained. As a result, Sakyamuni created a system to formalize the relationship between master and disciple and ordered that those who received the precepts as a bhikkhu must live with the master for ten years. Thus Pindola, who had become a disciple together with Sāriputta and Moggallāna, must have lived with Sakyamuni for ten years, until the 20th year after the enlightenment.
With the basic arrangements for the Saṃgha in place and the master-disciple system instituted, ordination through the Triple Refuge was abolished and replaced it with an ordination ceremony based on one announcement and three responses. This represents to formation of the formal Saṃgha. It happened after the tenth, eleventh and twelfth rainy seasons, spent in Rājagaha, and when Sakyamuni was 48 years old.
Thus Sakyamuni spent the first twelve years or so after his enlightenment in an area centring on Rājagaha. Though his disciples were spread around the country teaching his message, they had to bring applicants with them for ordination back to Sakyamuni, which meant that Buddhism did not put down roots in those places. It was probably after the disciples were allowed to ordain followers directly with the Triple Refuge formula, and then with the ceremony of one announcement and three responses, that the teachings began to take root locally and propagation activities inaugurated. We can probably say that the formal Saṃgha was established in the twelfth or thirteenth year after the enlightenment.
Thus until that time, Buddhism was not practised even in Sāvatthī. The banker (setthi) Anāthapindika knew about the Buddha from his visits on business to Rājagaha, and it was through him that Sakyamuni was first invited to Sāvatthī. Sakyamuni accepted the invitation on the condition that a vihāra be built for him there. The Buddha's first visit to Sāvatthī was in the fourteenth year after his enlightenment. Since King Pasenadi of Kosala would not have had any understanding of Buddhism at that time, there is no reason to suppose that Buddhism immediately took hold in Kosala at that juncture.
(2) At that stage, Buddhism had still not arrived in Kosambī. However, eventually the bankers and merchants of the city heard that Anāthapindika, the most esteemed setthi in Kosala, has become a fervent supporter of the new religion, and perhaps heard of Sakyamuni's discourses while they were going about their business. Three of Sakyamuni's most fervent supporters built a vihāra in Kosambī, and as a result they were able to invite him there. This was the first time Sakyamuni had touched foot in Kosambī. About eight years had passed since Buddhism reached Sāvatthī. This was in the 22nd year after the enlightenment, when the Buddha was 57 years old.
Buddhist believers emerged also from the royal court of Kosambī, including two of the consorts of King Udena, Sāmāvatī and Vāsuladattā, as well as Sāmāvatī's attendant Khujjuttarā. At that time, Bodhi, who later became the prince of Bhagga, was still in the womb of his mother, Vāsuladattā. Of course Udena had had the opportunity to know about Buddhism, but he did not reach any deep understanding of it.
At this time, Pindola Bhāradvāja had completed his period of ten years living as a disciple with his master. Having become a fully-fledged bhikkhu, he went to Kosambī as a member of the "Bhikkhu Saṃgha of Sakyamuni." He met King Udena there but incurred his anger.
Ānanda had been given a position something like a confidential secretary by Sakyamuni, and the Buddha deliberately used him as his representative. He was greatly trusted by the people of Kosambī.
(3) Despite the king's attitude, Buddhism began to permeate the merchant class and some of the court. Sakyamuni then made a second journey to this area, about three years after his first, when he was sixty. Sakyamuni's former personal attendant Sāgata went with the group. Sāgata had overcome a Nāga in either Ceti or Vanga, countries that bordered on Vamsā, of which Kosambī was the capital. Sāgata's mother is said to have come from there and so he may have made a show of strength to convert those following non-Buddhist ways.
Around that time, the stubborn heart of Udena began to move towards Buddhism. This may also have been due to the determined preaching of Pindola Bhāradvāja, who had remained in Kosambī. And so Udena welcomed Sakyamuni and his followers but he was not yet in a position of friendship with the Buddha.
(4) Thus Buddhism arrived at last at Kosambī and reached its most prosperous time there, 35 years after the enlightenment and when Sakyamuni was 70. Channa, who had been brought up with Sakyamuni and departed the city with him as his attendant when he left household life, had considerable influence in Kosambī. However he grew arrogant, building a large vihāra and refusing to heed admonitions.
At that time Sakyamuni happened to visit Kosambī for a third time. Perhaps related to trouble Channa had stirred up, dissension had broken out within the Kosambī Saṃgha. Conflict arose over the prescription of trifling regulations. There was a growing movement to formalize the regulations in the various Saṃghas. Perhaps because of the presence of the proud Channa in Kosambī, Sakyamuni was unable to act as a mediator, and was told that it was their business and not to interfere. A great schism arose.
Disgusted, Sakyamuni returned to Sāvatthī. The lay followers of Kosambī were very angry and refused to give the bhikkhus their daily offerings. With their food supply cut off, the bhikkhus followed after the Buddha and settled their dispute in Sāvatthī.
(5) Sakyamuni made his final visit to Kosambī twenty years after his first, the 42nd year after the enlightenment, when he was 77. The main reason for the visit may have been an invitation from Prince Bodhi, a Bhagga prince, and he probably visited Kosambī at that time, though not much is known about his activities there. Channa still remained an influential figure in Kosambī and he perhaps acted high-handedly. Sakyamuni may realized this before his death, for he left instructions that the Brahmadanda should be carried out on Channa, whereby all bhikkhus were forbidden to have anything to do with him.
(6) Sakyamuni instructed his followers that after his death the teachings and the precepts that he had given would be their master. The rainy season retreat the year following the Buddha's death was held at Rājagaha with five hundred representative disciples in attendance. There they held a Council to determine if the teachings and regulations that they had received were correctly transmitted or not. Finally, Mahākassapa, who conducted the Council, heard from Ānanda the Buddha's final testament and his instruction to apply Brahmadanda on Channa. Ānanda then returned to Kosambī and pronounced the Brahmadanda. He went, perhaps expecting to be received as a person who matched Channa, because a master-disciple relationship existed between the two, and also Ānanda was deeply trusted by the people of Kosambī. Alternatively, because of the trouble, Buddhism in Kosambī after Sakyamuni's death may have turned towards Ānanda. This is because a number of sutras exist where the central figure is not Sakyamuni but Ānanda.
(7) Kosambī was at the hub of east-west and north-south trade routes connecting Eastern and Western India, and Northern and Southern India. It was a leading city in the India of the time. The merchant class contributed greatly to Buddhism's taking root here.
The heartland of Buddhism was the Hindustan plain stretching along the middle reaches of the Ganges. In terms of the places where Sakyamuni was most active, Kosambī was slightly away from the centre. Thus the Buddhism there was very likely to have had quite a different atmosphere from that of the Buddhist heartland - the states of Magadha, Kosala and Vajjī. In Rājagaha, where Devadatta had great influence, Sakyamuni made King Bimbisāra an ally and was able to bring matters to a decision by expelling Devadatta from the Saṃgha for his evil plotting. However, in Kosambī he did not have strong regal backing and so Kosambī Buddhism may have moved in an undesirable direction. The incident of the great schism symbolizes this, as does the presence of Channa.
This situation continued right up to the Buddha's death and no doubt caused the Buddha pain. We have seen that this was finally resolved, the Buddha's last injunction before his death, and this must be ascribed to the support he had from the influential merchant class in Kosambī. The tradition that the Kosambī schism was resolved because the lay followers would not support the Saṃgha tells this in symbolic terms. All the same, the schism, as well as the penalty of Brahmadanda on Channa, gave Kosambī the unwelcome image of being a heretical city.
The Kosambī schism edict of King Ashoka reads (though the original is imperfect): "The Beloved-of-the-Gods commands the high officials of Kosambī .... concord is ordered.... will not be permitted in the Saṃgha. Bhikkhus and bikkhunis who split the Saṃgha are to be made to wear white clothes and to reside some place other than a vihāra." Similar edicts are found at Sanchi and Sarnath. That one was erected at Kosambī suggests a backdrop such as we have seen above.
(8) Buddhism in Kosambī developed with an individual character. We know from a large amount of inscriptions that Buddhism prospered there in later times, and Mahayana Buddhism too seems to have been brought there early on. However, when the Chinese monks Fazang and Zuanzang visited Kosambī, they reported that it had already begun to fall into ruin, and that Hinayana Buddhism held sway there. Today only its ruins remain in the fields, but their extent tells us how thriving a city it once was.