Is there any connection between 3rd buddhist council & Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism

Hello Everyone!

I have read in “samantapasadika” text(at the end part) that Venerable Mogaliputta tissa who presided during 3rd buddhist council(patronized by great emperor Ashoka), at the end of it, he organized nine different missions to spread the sasana (the Buddha’s dispensation) to the “border regions” of India. So my question is that…what was the content of it? Was it same Theravada/original teachings of lord buddha with 9 exact copies… which was revised in 1st and 2nd buddhist council? Or was it divided into 9 different parts by venerable Mogaliputta tissa just as relics of Buddha are distributed…and all the relics are not at single place…? I hope I am able to convey what I am asking…
In other words …did venerable Mogaliputta tissa divide teachings into 9 distinct parts? Or was it the same teachings copied 9 times so that it will help to preserve the dispensation of our lord longer(in a sense that if one copy gets lost there is another)?

Lastly my main question is that, “is there possibly any relationship that 9 vehicles to enlightenment(Sravaka vehicle, pratyeka-buddha vehicle, Bodhisattva vehicle, are 3 of those 9 vehicles)as given in Nyingma school of tibetan buddhism are in any way related to those 9 different missions? I mean is there a chance that it is the same?” (As both are numbered 9)

I hope venerable @sujato or any one else can shed light over it if possible… I consider venerable sujato as one of many windows which can give to ‘those with faith’ the glimpse of the time when lord buddha was walking on earth with his sangha…so I will be grateful if venerable responds… although I completely understand he has more important works than answering random less fruitful questions.

The text “Samantapasadika” - It is collection of Pali commentaries on the Theravada Tipitaka Vinaya which was translation of Sinhala commentaries into Pali by Buddhaghosa in 5th century (based on Wikipedia)

I am follower and with a background of THERAVADA buddhism(EBT)…so I am asking this question from the perspective of EBT/Theravada. My personal belief is that elders(arhats)were the original disciples of Lord Buddha and only these ven. arhats knew about all the teachings of buddha.
I am not PRIMARILY in search of answers/opinions of Mahayana or any other school other than THERAVADA/EBT, although I will definitely appreciate it. So I request you guys to share what you think if possible.

English isn’t my primary language…so I hope I didn’t sound rude! I beforehand apologise if I did!:pray:

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Basically, yes. At that time there were no schools, and the Sangha was still unified. Of course, there would have been variations between teachers and so on, nothing is ever 100% identical, but basically in Moggaliputtatissa’s eyes he was spreading the Buddhadhamma, not a particular sect or group of sects.

Many of the sectarian divisions that arose later, however, can be attributed to the geographic dispersal of the Dhamma. The idea that these were distinct schools, however, only arose after Ashoka.

No, these distinctions pertain to a much later period of Buddhism. We can trace the evolution of these ideas from the early canon, to the late canon, to post-canonical works, to Mahayana sutras, to Mahayana treatises.

Tibetan Buddhism is based on the systematization from Nalanda, about 1000 years after Ashoka.

Not at all, it is an interesting question. Please let me know if I can help any further.


So bhante can we say that today’s all kinds of teachings were present at the time of 3rd council…it’s just that it got differentiated into distinct schools later?

Lord buddha used to teach each person in a best possible way for him…so is today’s differentiation same as that? As People of different capacities/inclinations are given different ways to follow accordingly…

Oh so there is no chance that later on it was divided …but these different schools evolved because of different kind of teachers, is this what you mean sir?

In other words my question is that…was today’s distinct schools’ teachings were present during 3rd council or b4 that and it just wasn’t differentiated at that time? or is it the case that later on after 1000 years of ashoka these schools evolved and were not distinctly present before?

And if we suppose 2nd option is right then can we say that different schools emerged later on and it had anything to do with those monks with various wrong views(such as sarvastivada & all) whom ashoka expelled with the help of ven Mogaliputta tissa?

No, I’m saying that until after the time of Ashoka, there were no distinct schools. Within the Sangha, the focus was on the suttas. Of course there would have been various developments in terms of scripture (Abhidhamma), practice, and doctrine, but these were not reified into distinct schools.

Many of the teachings that are well known today—like the various Tibetan schools, Pure Land, or Zen—did not exist and would not arise until much later.

Indeed. This variation is found in the Suttas. The Buddha taught people what they need. But this does not mean that the Buddha taught a different school of Buddhism to people of different character.

I’m not sure what you mean. The Sangha was unified until the time of Ashoka, and became divided after that.

No, the different schools and the teachings of those schools as we know them today did not exist. There was no tantra, no bodhisattva path, no Pure Land, no koans, none of that until later.

No, this is not what happened. The monks expelled at the Third Council were not Buddhists. They were fake monks who only joined to get money.

As I have said many times, there was no such thing as Sarvastivada or any other school at that time. The schools arose after Ashoka.


Definitely sir. I understand that buddha did not taught different schools, what I meant that Buddha taught everyone with the best technique useful for every person so that, it will be easy for that person to find salvation. Only buddha could know perfectly which way is suitable for each person.

Sir can we say that all of these different teachings or ways were actually unnecessary because Tathagata buddha was himself teaching everyone personally? I mean nibbana is said to be highest happiness/wellbeing and tathagata was there so it was the most conducive time(which comes in ages/aeons!) to achieve ultimate freedom. So noone needed to bother about other lesser of lateral teachings. Buddha didn’t even have to teach other things… Can we say it? :point_left: First question

I mean tathagata was able to know whatever there is to know, he was kind of omniscient, his great renunciation, physical characteristics, bodily features and all was one of the biggest inspiration for people to leave household so that they will practice holy life of sangha…But now he is not alive.

In Samantapasadika it is written that when during 2nd buddhist council…arhats came to think about what will happen to dispensation in future(as certain problem arose and then they thought what will happen if such problem arises in future), so they saw in all the desire realms including human realm there was no one who was capable of solving such problem related to preservation of true teachings of Buddha. Then in the Brahma realms they saw Brahma named ‘tissa’ whose lifespan was waning & who had created causes for higher rebirth and these arhats saw that only he was capable to help dispensation in the future when such problem will arise so they requested him to take birth in human realm and he accepted happily. I read this in samantapasadika.

I have read somewhere also that when Buddha’s dispensation is coming to an end…(except few)most of the people don’t practice main teachings (suttas and all whose sole aim is nibbana), because maybe it’s hard for them(it is indeed not easy though). For instance some people would prefer making merit by following some sutta teachings related to generousity and all and then aim for rebirth in heaven to live happier lives instead of taking full benefit of Buddha’s teachings which can make person even arhat if followed all the way!

For example someone who is not following complete eightfold path but only a part of it…let’s say he is person who only takes care of his parents and looks for them in every way just as mother cares for her child. Now this person is good person but he is not trying to follow teachings of Buddha completely, he is like choosing very small part(based on his lesser will and desires and not being enough wise) because maybe he is capable of that only. So this person looks and takes care of his parents till the end of their lifespan and as a result of such good deed attains heavenly rebirth.

Now I don’t remember where I read that but buddha says that such person(in above analogy who attains heaven by caring for his parents) is like kind of a thief who, because kingdom is kind of bereft of king and his retinue(pointing to parinibbana of Buddha), steals one gem from many gems in the kingdom. (Meaning in a sense that whole tipitaka was available but he takes only one sutta instead of choosing all). I am not sure where I read but I have read this somewhere certainly.

So will it be correct if I say that most of these different schools arose based on some part of buddhadhamma(original teachings of Buddha) it’s just that they cannot follow the main teachings of Buddha(EBT/Theravada) hence they took hold of other teachings of Buddha, just as thief in above analogy but let’s say this time it wasn’t single thief (single person) but group of many people who couldn’t/didn’t want to follow main(core) teachings of suttas and hence took hold of other teachings which were also taught by buddha but not included in tipitaka because maybe it was not necessary or pure/truthful and were directed to different kind of individuals who were maybe minority at the time, which were easier for them? :point_left: 2nd question

Lastly sir ( if I’m allowed to mention this here, I’ll delete this thread after venerable provides answer) I have read in one vajrayana text from 84000 org website where it is said that ashoka did one sadhana which gave him power/control over yakshas(yakkhas) because of which he constructed 84000 stupas in a single day with the help of yakshas. And his being ruler of vast empire of jambudwipa, being so powerful that he could control yaksas, being instrumental in spreading teachings of Buddha on such a vast scale all resulted due to his gift of mud cake to Lord Gautama Buddha in his past life. He also vowed that may I be Buddha in future at some point in his life.(as given in that text). Now this maybe is exaggeration or maybe even incorrect, regardless of that and also in our history book during my childhood I read that ashoka was aware of concept of Bodhisattva, and he had very great faith in his teacher venerable Mogaliputta tissa…who taught him many things but was firm in spreading original teachings of Buddha instead of differentiation of Bodhisattva way and all. So this gave me impression that. What most of the today’s different schools of Buddhism was implicit in original teachings of Buddha…(I mean those arhats such as ven. Mogaliputta tissa and all were enough wise, perhaps wiser than wisest people of today and they knew what should be mentioned where and what should be taught to whom)…it’s just that it was made explicit later afterwards (say 1000 years after ashoka) because of lessened capabilities of present people and less inclination towards true goal of teachings. Am I right or am I wrong in deducing this sir? What do you think? :point_left:3rd question

Please answer above 3 questions Venerable and that’s it then for me.:pray:

Ha ha, the Buddha said you become wise by asking questions, so you’re well on the way! Let me see if I can help.

Umm, I guess so.

Right, it does say that, although i wouldn’t take it as a historical fact; it’s a piece of mythmaking.

This is a misunderstanding. There are plenty of teachings in the suttas for people who want to get to heaven, or who simply want to live a good life. There’s no requirement or expectation that everyone is practicing for Nibbana. That’s one of the good qualities of the Dhamma, it is beautiful in the beginning (ādikalyāṇo).

Absolutely not! There’s no such idea in the suttas.

I see where you’re getting at, and I don’t think it’s 100% off base, but generally speaking, no.

The schools arose gradually over time due to personal, historical, philosophical, and other changes. It doesn’t really have very much to do with people’s inherent spiritual capacity.

Having said which, there is a difference between the Dhamma taught by the Buddha, which was a path chosen by those who wished to practice, and the Dhamma of laters years, where people were born into a society as “Buddhists”, with maybe no interest in spiritual; practice at all.

Now, society found it useful to provide such people with generally accepted rituals and beliefs that could support them, like going for refuge, bowing to the shrine, and so on. Maybe you’re not meditating each day, but at least you affirm a core set of values.

Now, this does, I think, have something to do with the rise of the Bodhisattva ideal, which introduced a key devotional focus allowing people to feel a closer personal connection with the Buddha.

And it is a factor in certain cases of sectarian development, for example, the Pure Land, which was developed in China as a way to allow farmers to practice devotions while working in the field.

But in most cases, the schools arose for all kinds of different reasons, often for quite abstruse philosophical points that make no sense without many years of deep learning. How about the Sarvastivadin conception of time, for example, which posits that all phenomena of the past, present, and future, exist? This is philosophically comparable to the relativistic notion of “block time”.

I don’t really think the average Joe or Tissa on the street would understand or care less about such things.

Anyway, doesn’t the persistence of the Theravada school through the ages refute your proposal? It works just fine as a devotional practice.

These are not historical texts, they did not happen.

There was a general idea of the Bodhisatta, but the developed theory of the Bodhisatta (with vows in past lives, paramis, and so on) had not yet developed.

Such practices did not arise until later.

There’s some truth to that, the later schools did indeed draw out different aspects of the Buddha’s teachings and adapt and interpret them in different ways. And of course there is much room for different perspectives on the Dhamma.

I wouldn’t use the lens of “different spiritual aptitudes of people in history” though. It’s not a historical or verifiable concept. People are pretty much the same, past and present. If you want to practice, the path is there, and for those who practice, the results of the path are there.


Venerable I knew it, you are one of few who are closer than many to original sangha of Buddha(though I know I am not authority to say this, I feel that way).

I forgot to mention here that, this same Brahma was said to have taken birth as Mogaliputta tissa who presided over 3rd council. But I guess you got that.

Sorry I didn’t mean to say that. Instead of ‘sole’ I should have used word ‘main’ I am very well aware of fact that suttas have various kinds of teachings for everyone. Thank you for correcting me!

Oh off course… also I don’t remember reading that in any sutta. Must have read that somewhere else as internet is full of such things.

Wow what a perfect explanation! This clears away many doubts for me.

Yes sir you are right and I think in kathavatthu there is refutation for this ‘all exists’ concept. I haven’t read it yet though.
My belief based on little amount of reading is that, their goal(when they say that everything exists) is not nibbana, they are aiming for ‘akasha’(where everything is continuous, arises and dissolves but essentially continues), which is somewhat related to Bodhisattva way. Nonetheless, it is a deviation from true teachings based on strong desire and inability to renounce samsara.
I see it this way…nibbana is other shore(the perfect happiness, the ultimate goal) and aakasha is like living on ship, where sea is samsara of suffering. I believe all things which talk about Bodhisattva ideal are more or less like this only, although in various contexts but essentially aiming towards construction of ship to travel the illusory sea of samsara (samsara=illusion of mara) instead of directly landing on shore of nibbana by cutting through illusion with the help of wisdom, as taught by buddha. I know it is messed up analogy :sweat_smile:.

Yes sir!

Are you asking this to me? Well if you are asking then… I am not intending to proposing something sir, I just want to be sure that I don’t fall in trap of different traditions of Buddhism (given my interest in reading/knowing about various traditions)…because I know it is not easy to aim for nibbana by following suttas in present age with so many corruptions/distractions around, and now I have chance so I want to make sure that I don’t waste it.
I am actually grateful and happy that theravada survived till now against so many challenges & corruptions which are increasing daily!

So we can say it’s like writing mythology with exaggeration to make it look more appealing!

Yes sir, so I guess, “different interpretations of & perspectives on buddhadhamma” will be more correct instead of capacities/spiritual aptitude, isn’t it?

What a nice way to conclude sir! :pray:

My conclusion is that, it cannot be said that all Buddhists are followers of dhamma. Just mere fact that you are studying buddhism doesn’t make you follower, you have to walk & see results here & now for that. These different schools arose due to situational/geographical necessities or as a result of different interpretations/perspectives and as adaptation so that different kinds of people could practice in some way or other atleast if not completely and nothing more than that. Wise person should follow word of Buddha from suttas.

I really like the way you answer queries here! Thank you venerable for answering, correcting me and giving clarifications! :pray::pray::pray:

That’s correct, yes.

Me too, it’s quite the miracle, I am grateful every day!

Indeed. It’s an open question of Buddhist history as to why they chose to express themselves in this way. One thing that always strikes me is how very easy it is to fake suttas. Seriously, take a template, add the phrase you want, and boom! A nice text that justifies your position that is basically impossible to distinguish from an authentic one.

But no-one did that, or at least, not beyond a few marginal cases. the later texts are obviously distinguished, they go out of their way to make them different.

Be happy!


Sry because of some problem I couldn’t reply sooner! :pray:

Exactly sir. I have read many Mahayana texts, I have concluded that, all of it arose only to tackle certain type of people/population. And in a process got corrupted and misinterpreted. Just to make sure they follow buddha, by hook or by crook. Those suttas also prove one thing, how beautiful delusion can be. It’s almost like many many billions of years of lifespan which deludes one to believe that one is immortal. In other words a very beautiful illusion to prevent one from seeing truth here and now!
During 1st counsel of dhamma, venerable mahakassapa chose only arhats and not even non-returners nor once-returner nor stream-enterers, that just proves that perfect understanding and not misinterpreting teachings of Buddha is not a joke and not easily possible for even higher gods and Brahmas. So what can we say about most of those(humans) who established different schools of Buddhism in history till now. We can just imagine how immensely they must be error prone.

Recently I have studied osho’s(Indian philospher named acharya rajnish, deceased) remark/comment on bodhidharma’s(indian monk who is said to have established Zen Buddhism branch of Mahayana buddhism in China I guess) teaching which says that…mahayanist just MISINTERPRETED somethings literally and extended it to attract population. I feel as a matter of fact…every other school other than THERAVADA(which is the original and not any school) arose only because of different/wrong interpretation, although to attract different population.

According to osho, enlightenment is awakening from a dream. And samsara is like a dream. I think in suttas also it is said that what we experience as non-arya is actually an illusion(I hope I am right here).
So he says, as they say Siddharth Gautama cultivated these vows for 3 asankheya great aeons or in simpler terms, for unimaginable time…
…Bodhidharma says Bodhisattva made 3 vows,

  1. I want to put an end to all evils.
  2. I vow to cultivate all virtues.
  3. I vow to liberate all beings.

Asankheya means countless. It is like a dream. Life is said to be like dream for one who awakens to truth/nibbana, now one can dream for some hours or some years or for millions of years or for asankheyas of aeons. But essentially it was a dream.

These words of the Buddha(about 3 vows as Bodhisattva) are true. But regardless of them being true, they were not uttered by buddha, they were uttered by Siddharth Gautama(this inability to distinguish Siddhartha Gautama’s words from that of Buddha’s is what creates a problem). Here the three asankheya kalpas refer to the three poisoned states of mind. What is called asankhya in Sanskrit, we call it countless. Within these three poisoned states of mind are countless evil thoughts. And every thought lasts a kalpa. Such an infinity is what the Buddha meant by the three asankhya kalpas.
These three vows were maybe made by Siddharth Gautama before enlightenment that is, before becoming Buddha.
Practicing moral prohibitions to counter the poison of greed, he vowed to put an end to all evils. Practicing meditation to counter the poison of anger, he vowed to cultivate all virtues. And practicing wisdom to counter the poison of delusion, he vowed to liberate all beings.
And the six paramitas are for purifying the six senses. What they call paramitas, we call it means to the other shore. By purifying six senses of the dust of sensation, the paramitas ferry you across the river of affliction to the shore of enlightenment.

But they(the population for which Mahayana said to came into picture) didn’t understand the message of Buddha (theravada), they needed something to hold on and to continue samsara. A beautiful reason of compassion to continue the samsara. A beautiful reason to not awaken and continue sleeping. They couldn’t drop this mind, which is the cause of cyclic existence. So they created all the beautiful net around it.
This is what he said about Mahayana teachings. I don’t want to share his thoughts or anything like that, I am citing it just to respond in better way.

So like above I feel every other school other than THERAVADA actually arose only for the needs of people such as those in China or in any other area, who couldn’t understand teachings in their original form. So in that process most of them just misinterpreted most of the teachings or used them as they pleased.

Because of my lack of English conversation abilty, I couldn’t understand above sentence. I assume that you are saying that few marginal cases are there where misinterpretation of original text is done and later texts are obviously distinguished and don’t necessarily misinterpret original teachings, they just create their own story. Regardless of that, I have got answer from you! my understanding is improved now.

Me too sir, as we all should be…I feel we are so lucky to have received teachings in such pure form that too after more than 2500 years!!. Don’t know about future but our present is filled with so much fortune! Thanks to efforts of Elders/monks/Sangha/Theras of past!

I got the answers from you for my questions! I sincerely thank you for taking time and responding venerable bhante! :pray::pray::pray:

Let me rephrase.

When later authors were composing scriptures such as the Mahayana scriptures (or for that matter something like the Milindapanha), they did not try to disguise them as early suttas. They took full advantage of the literary and technical changes since the time of the Buddha, especially since the introduction of writing, and they created works that are startlingly different than anything coming from the time of the Buddha. Clearly they were not trying to pretend that these were early suttas.

As a musician, I might compare the situation with music recordings. If I am recording a jazz standard written in the 1930s, I’ll do it in a modern studio with nice clear sound and effects. I might have a trumpet, but I’ll also have a synthesizer and a drum machine. No-one listening to it would imagine that it was a recording from a century ago. It would be absurd to think that anyone would take it that way. I might give my work some stylistic flourishes and affectations that connect it with that earlier era, but this is purely for aesthetics, not because I am trying to convince people that it is a genuine 1930s recording.


The basic problem people had in later eras (by that I mean 0-1000 AD) was that Indian Buddhists had insisted for centuries that newer teachings were taught by the Buddha in order to give them legitimacy. They also held that anything that kept to the basic principles of Buddhism was equivalent to the Buddha’s word to combat sectarianism. This is why Mahayana Buddhists saw nothing wrong with composing new sutras to criticize the excesses of other Buddhists, and sometimes to push new ideas in rebellion against the orthodoxies of their time. This had already happened more than once in the early Buddhist canons with the addition of avadana and Abhidharma texts.

How was a Chinese Buddhist in 400 AD to tell whether a pure land sutra was more or less legitimate than an Agama like the Mahavadana Sutra? Or that the Mahayana Nirvana Sutra was more or less made up compared to the traditional Parinirvana Sutra? People tend to believe that more inclusive or sophisticated teachings are better, so Chinese Buddhists tended to assume that later texts represented the fully developed teaching. They all claimed to be taught by him, from Agamas up to the late Mahayana texts, so they also assumed they represented the Buddha’s teaching developing during his lifetime. And, of course, people tend believe what they are told. It’s human nature, I guess.

I would give another word of caution, too: There is far more material that is untranslated and largely ignored than has been translated to modern languages. That situation unfortunately will continue for the forseeable future because there aren’t enough people interested in finding out what they say or studying their relationships with each other. We live in an era of over-simplification on one hand and over-specialization on the other. Modern people want ONE ANSWER to everything or to study one narrow corner of the ancient world for a lifetime. The overall picture is not understood in these ways. But it’s a monumental task to try to take in an overview of Buddhism because of the sheer volume of material Buddhists produced.


Yes venerable I understood this point now! Thank you for simplifying! :pray:

All because they couldn’t wish n work for liberation enough, they wanted something else.

Yes sir. I assume it was more or less because they couldn’t understand the original teachings.

Yes sir exactly. Well put! Poeple tend to not value oversimplification and they value over specialization more because of certain level of ignorance I believe. Theraveda is like medicine which cures all diseases but some people want to cure their selective diseases so they prefer taking less effective medicines or medicines of their choice. Modern man is more interested in over specialization but wise man is interested in over simplification.

Modern people=those who are not exactly interested in liberation but are more interested in renewing their experience of samsara in different ways!

I feel Theravada is the core of Buddha’s teachings. Buddha may have taught other teachings or he may have not taught… regardless of that, Theravada is the core… true and original teaching and it takes guts to accept and follow it(in the modern average man’s context when so much material is available under buddhism).

One time when I was staying at Wat Nanachat, we were visited by two Bhutanese monks. One of the resident monks asked them, “What is the goal of your practice?” They said, “The same as you, to realize Nibbana.”

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