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Canonical Pâli Buddhist Literature of the Theravâda School

Book 3 - Mahavagga Pali

The next two books, namely, Mahavagga Pali which is Book III and Culavagga Pali which is Book IV of the Vinaya Pitaka, deal with all those matters relating to the Sarhgha which have not been dealt with in the first two books.

Mahavagga Pali, made up often sections known as Khandhakas, opens with an historical account of how the Buddha attained Supreme Enlightenment at the foot of the BodhI Tree, how he discovered the famous law of Dependent Origination, how he gave his first sermon to the Group of Five Bhikkhus on the discovery of the Four Noble Truths, namely, the great Discourse on The Turning of the Wheel of Dhamma, Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. This was followed by another great discourse, the Anattalakkhana Sutta. These two suttas may be described as the Compendium of the Teaching of the Buddha.

The first section continues to describe how young men of good families like Yasa sought refuge in him as a Buddha and embraced his Teaching, how the Buddha embarked upon the unique mission of spreading the Dhamma 'for the welfare and happiness of the many' when he had collected round him sixty disciples who were well established in the Dhamma and had become Arahats, how he began to establish the Order of the Samgha to serve as a living example of the Truth he preached; and how his famous disciples like Sariputta, Moggallana, Maha Kassapa, Ananda, Upali, Angulimala became members of the Order The same section then deals with the rules for formal admission to the Order (Upasampada), giving precise condi- tions to be fulfilled before any person can gain admission to the Order and the procedure to be followed for each admission.

Mahavagga further deals with procedures for an Uposatha meeting, the assembly of the Samgha on every full moon day and on the fourteenth or fifteenth waning day of the lunar month when Patimokkha, a summary of the Vmaya rules, is recited Then there are rules to be observed for rains retreat (vassa) dunng the rainy season as well as those for the formal ceremony of pavarana concluding the rains retreat, in which a bhikkhu invites criticism from his brethren in respect of what has been seen, heard or suspected about his conduct

There are also rules concerning sick bhikkhus, the use of leather for footwear and furniture, materials for robes, and those concerning medicine and food. A separate section deals with the Kathma ceremonies where annual making and offering of robes take place.

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