1. the usage of saṃgha;
2. the image of Sakyamuni's Saṃgha;
3. provisions and systems to unify Sakyamuni's Saṃgha;
4. formative process of Sakyamuni's Saṃgha;
5. solving the questions laid out in Article 1, "Did Sakyamuni's Saṃgha Exist?";
6. From "Sakyamuni's Saṃgha" to the "Buddhist Saṃgha";
Sakyamuni, the Sangha of Sakyamuni, the Sangha of the Buddha's disciples, the Sanghas led by the Buddha's disciples, uposatha, rainy season retreat, holy wandering, Councils, franchise-chain stores, royalty, the Buddhist Sangha, the Catholic Order
Preceding articles have told us that, though it is impossible to confirm through the early scriptural sources the existence of an organization that may be termed "Sakyamuni's Saṃgha", which unified the various individual saṃghas scattered around India and the bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, circumstantial evidence suggests that such an organization existed. This article attempts to prove this hypothesis logically.
The Saṃgha as it appears in the Vinaya Pitaka is the community of disciples living a communal life in a single monastery. Using the terminology propounded in Article 13, this corresponds to the "Saṃghas led by the Buddha's disciples". Each of these saṃghas had various powers: to admit members to Sakyamuni's Saṃgha as qualified bhikkhus, to expel those who had committed grave offences from Sakyamuni's Saṃgha, to punish those who had contravened the regulations, to amalgamate with or become independent of, other saṃgha, and to acquire and manage resources. The procedures by which these powers were enacted are called kamma.
"Saṃghas led by the Buddha's disciples" can be compared to modern franchise stores like Seven Eleven, which are basically small independent stores dotted throughout the country which own their own land, buildings, facilities and fixtures, and which are responsible for their own capital, personnel, inventory and management, as well as their profits or losses. However, since they operate as Seven Eleven stores, there is an overarching organization unifying them, to which they pay royalties and in return receive know-how about purchasing routing, commodity display and inventory management. In sum, each individual store is linked to a nation-wide organization. This latter corresponds to "Sakyamuni's Saṃgha".
If we understand "Sakyamuni's Saṃgha" in this way, it must have been capable of joining together all the dispersed saṃghas and all the ordained practitioners, and had a system to do so. The equivalent to the Seven Eleven royalty that I mentioned above was the Buddha's teachings (Dhamma) and the regulations (Vinaya), which were systematized through (1) the compulsory twice-monthly uposatha ceremonies where all bhikkhus and bhikkhunis confirmed their adherence to the Dhamma and the Vinaya (especially the latter); (2) the three-month-long rainy season retreat (vassa-āvāsa), during which bhikkhus and bhikkhunis carefully studied the Dhamma and the Vinaya, and the confessional pavāraṇā ceremony on the final day; and (3) holy wandering (cārika) in order to collect information concerning the teachings and regulations about what was being taught locally on a daily basis, and what provisions were being enacted and what were being modified. Without these functions, local saṃghas could not have known about the regulations and observed them correctly; this would have rendered the Vinaya meaningless. Such functions were necessary too since the right to admit and expel members that had devolved to each saṃgha was not a demonstration of the validity of "Sakyamuni's Saṃgha". In sum, "Sakyamuni's Saṃgha" was not a centralized institution like the Catholic Church, but an organization like Seven Eleven which entrusted the core of management to each local saṃgha. For this reason, I have in this article described Saṃgha organization as being in the style of a franchise chain rather than a regular chain.
The "Saṃghas led by the Buddha's disciples" found all over the country were linked to "Sakyamuni's Saṃgha" by the Dhamma and Vinaya taught by the Buddha. Thus Sakyamuni himself can be said to have been the Dhamma and Vinaya, and so rules of management of "Sakyamuni's Saṃgha" did not exist, and, being a system like a franchise chain, a clear organization did not necessarily exist either. This is why it is so difficult to obtain any clear picture of its existence in the early scriptural sources. Further, the franchise chain analogy applies, in that the individual "Saṃghas led by the Buddha's disciples" were run independently. When conflict broke out in the Kosambī Saṃgha, for example, Sakyamuni's attempt at mediation was rejected, since the problem was considered to be an internal matter. Thus even Sakyamuni could not interfere in the running of a saṃgha.
When the Buddha was dying, he told Ānanda, concerned for the future of the saṃgha, "Become an island (lamp) unto yourselves, depending only on yourselves, relying on no one else for refuge. Make the Dhamma your island (lamp), make the Dhamma your refuge, relying on nothing else for refuge." He bequeathed the Dhamma and Vinaya he had taught to his followers to be their master after he was gone, and did not name any successor. This is because of the nature of "Sakyamuni's Saṃgha" and the "Saṃghas led by the Buddha's disciples" that I have described above.
The First Council, presided over by Mahā-Kassapa, was conducted based on the Buddha's last wishes. After this, "Sakyamuni's Saṃgha" became removed from the control of Sakyamuni as founder; the Dhamma and the Vinaya literally came to join together all the "Saṃghas led by the Buddha's disciples" and all the bhikkhus and bhikkhunis. At this point, we can say that "Sakyamuni's Saṃgha" has been universalized as the "Buddhist Saṃgha".
It goes without saying that the foundation of Buddhism is faith in the three treasures of the Buddha, his teachings (Dhamma), and the community of practitioners. Without this, the system formed of cārika and uposatha and so on is just so much dead wood.