Do Burmese have an unbroken lineage?

Generally we have heard that the Burmese have been maintaining an unbroken lineage since they received books from Sri Lanka in King Vijayabahu’s time. It was around beginning of the second millennium and before the King Anavarata of Burma.

Is this an obvious fact?

No-one really knows. In Theravada countries there are no reliable lineage lists such as are found in east Asia. All we have are some inscriptions and a few textual references. They give some indication, and they show that such questions were important to some monks (and kings), but they fall short of reliable evidence for a maintained lineage. This is not just my conclusion, it was said by somdet nyanasamvara (later the sangharaja of Thailand) in his book on the topic. The reality is that the Sangha came and went in all the now Theravada countries many times in complex ways over nearly 2000 years, and we know very little about all that.

The Vinaya doesn’t emphasize lineage, it emphasizes education, support, and mentorship.


So, in recent decades when the various Theravada monks were debating bhikkhuni ordination, from exactly where does the “lineage rule” come from (if not from the Vinaya)? Thank you

Thank you very much Bhante for your reply.

I also noticed the difficulty of tracing lineages back.

Doesn’t an Upasampada Vinaya Kamma requires Non-Parajika monks, legal Sima, accurate Kammavaca… etc. as mentioned in the Khandakas?

Can we ignore those, bhante?

If a lineage has been broken, then all the succeeding Upasampada Kammas of that lineage seem to be invalid.

What is the solution to this, bhante ?

Again, the plain fact is, no-one knows. Do with that fact as you will. A sense of community is subjective. It arises from faith.

All I would say is that it is bad faith to claim without evidence that one’s own lineage has a historical basis in an attempt to prevent genuine practitioners from practicing dhamma in accordance with their faith.


Excuse me Bhante, Could you tell me where I can find information or any realiable text about this statement. I have been recently intereted in the chineses sangha.
Thank you.

You mean on the lineage lists of east Asia? I don’t have details, but there has been some academic work on the topic. Also I have been told some things by monastic friends. Eg one Korean bhikkhuni told me she’d seen a very old book in her monastery, going back hundreds of years, which recorded the ordinations, named the teachers, and the students. She didn’t get to study it in detail, but she believes it has not been published and is only known in-temple.

I’ve never seen or heard of anything like that in Theravada.

I do recommend buddasasanavamsa by somdet nyanasamvara, hopefully it is online.

1 Like

What is “lineage” in Burmese/Sri Lanka (Tambapanni)/Thai/Tamrasatiya/Pali Buddhist tradition?

Thank you very much.

I haven’t been able to find it. If someone finds a PDF, please let us know! :grin:



Per the discussion here, it’s an unbroken sequence of ordination, usually listed by the upajjhaya name. There’s a Vinaya lineage for the early pali tradition in the Parivara, but no continuous history later on.

Here’s one for the Thai original.


Thanks! If there is none online in English, I’ll see if I can get it scanned, I just have to find a hard copy.


Meditation in Theravada generally had ceased in the second half of the last millennium, and in Burma the teaching suffered decline during British colonization (1824- 1948), provoking a revival leading to the vipassana school which spread to Sri Lanka, then via Western author-monks such as Bikkhu Bodhi globally.

" The interest in meditation was re-awakened in Myanmar (Burma) in the 18th century by Medawi (1728–1816), who wrote Vipassana manuals. The actual practice of meditation was re-invented in Theravada-countries in the 19th and 20th centuries and simplified meditation techniques, based on the Satipatthana sutta , the Visuddhimagga , and other texts, emphasizing satipatthana and bare insight were developed.[7][8]"—Wikipedia