Difference requirement for a schism

Hi guys,

I find there are two different requirements for a schism to happen.

The basis of Eighteen grounds:

There is the case where they explain not-Dhamma as ‘Dhamma’ … Dhamma as ‘not-Dhamma’ … not-Vinaya as ‘Vinaya’ … Vinaya as ‘not-Vinaya’ … what was not spoken, not mentioned by the Tathāgata as ‘spoken, mentioned by the Tathāgata’ … what was spoken, mentioned by the Tathāgata as ‘not spoken, not mentioned by the Tathāgata’ … what was not regularly practiced by the Tathāgata as ‘regularly practiced by the Tathāgata’ … what was regularly practiced by the Tathāgata as ‘not regularly practiced by the Tathāgata’ … what was not formulated by the Tathāgata as ‘formulated by the Tathāgata’ … what was formulated by the Tathāgata as ‘not formulated by the Tathāgata’ … a non-offense as ‘an offense’ … an offense as ‘a non-offense’ … a light offense as ‘a heavy offense’ … a heavy offense as ‘a light offense’ … an offense leaving a remainder as ‘an offense leaving no remainder’ … an offense leaving no remainder as ‘an offense leaving a remainder’ … a serious offense as ‘a not-serious offense’ … a not-serious offense as ‘a serious offense.’

On the basis of these eighteen grounds they pull away, pull apart, they perform a separate uposatha, perform a separate Invitation, perform a separate Community transaction. To this extent the Community is split.” — Cv.VII.5.2

Versus Ten grounds:

“Sir, they speak of ‘schism in the Saṅgha’. How is schism in the Saṅgha defined?” “Upāli, it’s when a mendicant explains what is not the teaching as the teaching, and what is the teaching as not the teaching. They explain what is not the training as the training, and what is the training as not the training. They explain what was not spoken and stated by the Realized One as spoken and stated by the Realized One, and what was spoken and stated by the Realized One as not spoken and stated by the Realized One. They explain what was not practiced by the Realized One as practiced by the Realized One, and what was practiced by the Realized One as not practiced by the Realized One. They explain what was not prescribed by the Realized One as prescribed by the Realized One, and what was prescribed by the Realized One as not prescribed by the Realized One.

On these ten grounds they split off and go their own way. They perform legal acts autonomously and recite the monastic code autonomously. That is how schism in the Saṅgha is defined.

A simple question, why are they different, which one is the correct one? Thanks.

The first version of the rule is essentially a more detailed form of the second version. The ‘10 grounds’ rule is from the Sutta Pitaka, and the 18 grounds is from the Vinaya.

If you look at the Vinaya texts for various rules, you will commonly see that there is an originating version for the rule, based on the incident that necessitated its creation, and then an expanded list where possible variations in the rule are explicitly noted.

I would say that the most likely explanation is that the Sutta version is the older one, and it was expanded to explicitly list common causes of disagreement when it was fixed in the Vinaya version.

In addition to @ccollier’s explanation, the Vinaya version includes more Vinaya matters: what is and is not an offence. This is not found in the Sutta version, where the items are of a more general nature.

So, while it is normally the case that the shorter passage is assumed to be earlier, in this case it might also be that the list was simply adapted for different contexts. Given that the list will undoubtedly occur in the different Vinayas, it would be wise to check with them before reaching any conclusions.

Yes- ‘most likely’ is probably too suggestive. The Sutta Pitaka version being a summary or re-presentation of the Vinaya version could be as likely- (I also missed the ellipses reading through and didn’t realize that there were additional abbreviation in the version posted). The tendency is to assume that length implies accumulation, but with two such closely related texts there’s plenty of room for doubt.

In any case I don’t mean to imply any connection between ‘earlier’ and ‘correct’- as Ajahn Sujato points out, they are simply different contexts.

Slightly off topic, why is causing a Schism in the Sangha grounds for being reborn in hell? Especially if the Sangha is hypothetically teaching a-Dhamma as Dhamma. It seems to me, creating a schism is the proper course of action, when the doctrinal point is an important one. I believe the orthodox position would be one should quietly slink off without criticizing the Sangha teaching aDhamma, so one doesn’t create the hell-bringing karmic result of sowing disharmony?

It seems to me the right thing to do, and the one with best karmic result, is to vociferously, publicly, denounce aDhamma. Not speaking out about aDhamma being taught as genuine Buddha Dhamma, as I see it, is grave and heavy negative karma, perhaps even leading to hell.

The intent isn’t to create disharmony, but to preserve the genuine Dhamma. It seems like maybe that “creating a schism leads to rebirth in hell” is a fear tactic for the orthodoxy to prevent people from speaking out against the orthodoxy?

Apologies for this unsolicited responce from a poster who is not the one being addressed.

Is there a “right to rebellion” in Buddhist monasticism? I personally doubt there is, but it would be interesting if there were.

This essentially seems to be what you are asking: does a monk have a canonically established right to rebel against a corrupt sangha?


History and human nature suggest that schisms are most likely to arise from personal or political conflicts which are then legitimated by doctrinal nit-picking. That’s a common human anti-pattern and I think is what the warning against splitting the Sangha is protecting against.

There’s also the idea that the effects of karma are self-creating- it isn’t that splitting the Sangha triggers some kind of third-party retribution, but rather that having been responsible for a schism in the Sangha you either a) remain convinced that you were correct for the rest of your existence or b) you begin to entertain doubts, or knew from the beginning you had bad motives. Option a) requires either perfect knowledge (rare!) or self-delusion (not so rare), and option b) leads to a guilty conscience, doubts, and torment- the classical ingredients for a bad rebirth.

In the case of a legitimate disagreement over doctrine or discipline, I believe there are rules in the Vinaya for how to resolve the dispute within the community and share space so that the Sangha does not split. In the ideal, the behavior of the community should be such that debates and disagreement can take place without it becoming a breach.

I’ve never seen anything like that described, but what I have heard articulated is something like the ‘right to wander on’- that if one is in conflict with another monk or the leadership of a temple district, one should have the right to move on to another place without disparaging either party.

Hi all thanks for your prompt and helpful reply and sorry for the late reply.

If I can ask Bhante regarding the translation of the last sentence. I find there are three different versions (in no particular order) of translation.

1.Bhikkhu Thanissaro:
On the basis of…To this extent the Community is split.
(Schism in the Sangha by Thanissaro Bhikkhu & Geshe Rabten)

2.Bhikkhu Sujato:
On the basis of…That is how schism in the Saṅgha is defined.

3.Bhikkhu Bodhi:
On the basis of…It is in this way, Upali, that there is schism in the Sangha.
(http://lirs.ru/lib/sutra/The_Numerical_Discourses_of_the_Buddha,Anguttara_Nikaya,Bodhi,2012.pdf) - Page 1390.

I think the Pali can be translated into all of the sentences above, is there any reason why “That is how schism in the Sangha is defined” is more accurate translation? Thanks Bhante @sujato

Absolutely. A student is allowed, nay encouraged, to leave their teacher if they are off the path. If a monastic is staying in a community that is straying, the monastic can declare themselves of a different communion than the community (nānāsaṁvāsa).

There are other methods too. So a monastic is not just allowed to rebel against a corrupt Sangha, they have extensive legal support for this in the Vinaya, to the extent that it is virtually an obligation to do so.

This is a common idiom, using the expression kittāvatā (“to what extent …”, “how far …”) … ettāvatā ("“to this extent …”, “this far …”). When translating it, I found the more literal rendering somewhat confusing.

In fact the idiom is pretty much identical with the English term “define”, i.e. “set the limits of”. So I decided to render it in this way. “How do you define schism in the Sangha?” is, to my mind, a much more idiomatic way of expressing it than “To what extent is there schism in the Sangha?”


Thanks Bhante :pray: