List of Leaders of the Sangha

Hello, Everyone.

We know that after Shakyamuni Buddha, Ananda was his successor as a leader of the sangha.

do we have a detailed list of names of those who were after Ananda?

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Where in EBTs do we find the appointment of Ananda as the leader of the Sangha? :thinking:


an appointment of Ananda by the Buddha himself, I don’t know, Sir Gabriel_L.

I’ve read among some histories of Buddhism that usually places him as the leader of Sangha (maybe as a successor of Shakyamuni Buddha. not matters for me if rightful or forced one, good or bad, agreed upon or not, appointed by Shakyamuni Buddha or by the Sangha after)after the first Buddhist council.

Like all modern sanghas, temples, lineages, there is always a leader after the previous one.

the first sangha, which corresponds to the timeline before schism, do we have a reliable source to list those leaders? or do you recommend the view that after Shakyamuni Buddha left away, no one took his seat at leading the sangha?


There’s a list in the Parivara, which is an appendix to the Vinaya. Other lists are found for other traditions.

Upāli, Dāsaka, as well as Soṇaka,
similarly Siggava,
With Moggali’s son as fifth—
these in the glorious (is)land of Jambusiri.


Thanks, Ven. Sujato.

Is there any Names agreed upon between various sects besides Ananda?

maybe if we put the list tables of various sects with each other, we can know at some degree at any generation the first sangha split.

It seems like that there is an opinion in Early Buddhism that provided later a core and environment for Schism among the first Sangha.

Upali or Ananda

I hope some archaeological and textual criticism evidences appear to provide a clear answer about the sangha leadership after Shakyamuni Buddha, Varied opinions inside the first sangha that emerged after his passing.

It’s a little complex. The Parivara list is the Vinaya masters of the Theravada, so it starts with Upali, who was the leader in Vinaya.

The lineage of Dhamma masters starts with Mahakassapa and then Ananda, then it diverges in the traditions. The northern tradition acknowledge five Dhamma masters: Mahākaśyapa, Ānanda, Madhyāntika, Śāṇakavāsin, and Upagupta. This list takes us up to the time of Ashoka. Later traditions extended this list with their own teachers.

Up as far as Upagupta they are shared with the Theravada. Sanakavasin is mentioned in the Pali canon account of the Second Council. Upagupta does not appear in Pali sources, but is the contemporary of Moggaliputtatissa in the Theravada. However, even though one appears in the northern lists and one in the south, that does not mean that there was a sectarian divide; for Moggaliputta actually lived at Upagupta’s monastery!

I think it was not for a couple more generations that a distinctively sectarian identity was felt.

I wrote a book, Sects & Sectarianism that deals with these issues, including both textual and archeological evidence.


Thanks, Sir, Ven. Sujato.

You provided me a lot of benefit. Sadhu, and full respect for you, Sir Ven.

of course, your book is on the list.


(I’ve added a few more details to my post above!)

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So, venerable @sujato, to address the loaded question in the OP. Is that really the case that Ananda mahathero was appointed or taken as the successor of the Buddha as leader of the Sangha?

If so, would not that conflict with what we find in DN16?

If there’s anyone who thinks: ‘I’ll take charge of the Saṅgha of mendicants,’ or ‘the Saṅgha of mendicants is meant for me,’ let them make a statement regarding the Saṅgha. But the Realized One doesn’t think like this, so why should he make some statement regarding the Saṅgha?
So Ānanda, be your own island, your own refuge, with no other refuge. Let the teaching be your island and your refuge, with no other refuge. And how does a mendicant do this? It’s when a mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of the body—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world. They meditate observing an aspect of feelings … mind … principles—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world. That’s how a mendicant is their own island, their own refuge, with no other refuge. That’s how the teaching is their island and their refuge, with no other refuge.

Whether now or after I have passed, any who shall live as their own island, their own refuge, with no other refuge; with the teaching as their island and their refuge, with no other refuge—those mendicants of mine who want to train shall be among the best of the best.”



It also conflicts with MN 108, where the brahmin Vassakara and Ven. Ananda talk about whether or not someone has taken over the leadership of the sangha after the Buddha’s parinibbana:

Vassakāra said:
“Master Ānanda, is there even a single mendicant who was appointed by Master Gotama, saying: ‘This one will be your refuge when I have passed away,’ to whom you now turn?”
“No, there is not.”
“But is there even a single mendicant who has been elected to such a position by the Saṅgha and appointed by several senior mendicants?”
“No, there is not.”
“But since you lack a refuge, Master Ānanda, what’s the reason for your harmony?”
“We don’t lack a refuge, brahmin, we have a refuge. The teaching is our refuge.”


A tradition specially made by those who go against Ananda as a conversation with Ananda among all other disciples to make him deny that there is a leader of the sangha after Shakyamuni Buddha might be the case here.

To refute a claim the most easiest way is to tailor a saying by the claimed himself denying what had been claimed about him.

First Buddhist Council is a an example about for the already varied opinions among the first sangha.

some might had said: buddha is gone, we can now do as we want. when someone disagrees with us, we can make traditions agreeing with us.

The whole traditions of myth and non-EBT doctrines are all based on this idea,

You seem to be very certain that was Ananda the leader of the Sangha after the Buddha’s final extinction (parinibbana). Hence the loaded question in the OP.

Are you aware of an alternative passage or any indication that that was the case? If so, could you share with us?



Obviously there’s no appointed leader in the sense of one who makes commands and decrees for the Sangha. Still, the Sangha had leaders and Ananda was among them, although as noted above Mahakassapa was the senior.


it might not be necessarily the case. it was just a question regarding the authenticity of the quoted text which states that Ananda when asked, refused to say that the sangha was led.

the obviously appointed leader and the rightful leader who hadn’t got appointed from the first place are 2 separate things.

plus, the notion that the sangha had no leader after parinibbana or the other tradition that there was a leader for the Dhamma (Ananda) and a leader for the Vinaya (Upali) separately at the same time and place is also an already existing tradition as mentioned above.

the possibilities for what Shakyamuni Buddha said about this thing are:
1-buddha said there was someone to take his place, naming that one. (because mentioning a successive leader without naming him will be a core to schism with Buddha as it’s cause. never mentioning is better than mentioning without naming)
2-buddha hadn’t said that there is someone to take his place. leaving the sangha after him without a leader.

the possibilities about what the sangha did after the Parinibbana are:
1-they did appoint a leader
2-they didn’t appointed a leader.

if they appointed a leader, the possibilites are:
1-they appointed a leader that Buddha named after him.
2-they appointed a leader that Buddha didn’t name after him.

if they appointed a leader that the Buddha named after him: this leader name must be known for us to take his opinions and tradition as a continuation of the Buddha’s. possible names will emerge from the various traditions: Upali, Ananda)

if they appointed a leader that Buddha didn’t name after him: this will make us re-evaluate the first sangha, on the basis that the Buddha orders and commands hadn’t been done after he was gone. this will make us assume that there were some disciples who are not believers in heart (Unfortunately, when making Devadatta the only one like this, telling his assassination attempt on the Buddha. directing our overall subconscious to Devadatta as the only and sole hypocrite-enemy of Buddha who was [at sometime] inside the sangha. those other rotten apples had been missed by us).

If really the rightful successor had been missed, his position had been undertook, those who took his place might:
1-lead one after one.
2-divide the lead among themselves.

the followers of the their traditions will try to polish their image later by inventing later texts that will make the false wear the skin of truth, plus sidelining the true successor.

these are all possibilities that are available at the net of various views possible, I didn’t claim any opinion of them to be mine.

Fair enough. Thanks for numbering your hypothesis.

What puzzles me is that the way I understand the teaching and the discipline presented by the Buddha and recorded in EBTs is that it does not require a central authority for it to perpetuate and/or enable the liberation from suffering.

Do you understand it differently?

If so, which aspects of the teaching (dhamma) and/or discipline (vinaya) do you see as requiring a succession based hierarchy?



This is true for The teaching and the discipline of Buddha. but not for the sangha that [Its supposed aim was to] transfer the teaching and discipline of Buddha to later generations intact without altering. Because if the teaching and discipline of others has been inserted into the canon as Buddha’s while some of Buddha’s teaching and discipline were deleted instead. the resulting Teaching and Discipline will not perpetuate and/or enable the liberation from suffering, because it’s not pure anymore, it’s not full anymore.

Everybody here agrees that the Full Teachings and Discipline of Buddha are the way to reach Enlightenment and liberation from suffering. but, not when not complete and full, not when another elements from others had been added to it.

Plus and minus give the same effect. adding has the same effect as deletion.

The same extant variations of the teachings and the vinaya, differences in them, are considered an evidence for the idea that Authority is needed to prevent addition or deletion of content to the Teachings and discipline laid down by the Buddha over time. this Authority of course needs to be based upon Buddha’s appointment, chosen by him, to be considered Righteous and non-biased and to be accepted by other followers of him.

Which of the 37 principles to awakening (bodhipakkhiya dhammas) would you say could have been altered?

Which of the core monastic rules, those shared across all monastic codes (vinayas) recorded and separated by thousands of kilometers and hundreds of years, would you say were altered?

It may be the case that your perceptions on this subject are affected by what you may have seen in Islam (I am assuming you were born in a Muslim culture).

As far as I know in the Buddha’s doctrine and discipline there is no much room for things depending on the righteousness of a chosen or appointed individual.

That would be delusional and not aligned with the understanding that the Dhamma is not dependent on individuals.

The only authority is the Buddha and his teachings are clear enough to not depend on an authority to translate , update or alter these for future generations.

It is actually the opposite that occurred. It was when, for example, northern Buddhist traditions came up with concepts like secret transmissions, hyper mythical sutras, zen patriarchs etc that we ended up having the aberrations we see in some of the Mahayana sects such as Japan’s Nichirenism, Tibet’s lamaism etc.

At the same time, it is inherent to the Buddhist understanding of the world that it is only natural that the teachings will eventually be lost.

This is because at the root of this world, fueling its origination and perpetuation, is the baseline of ignorance to the four Noble truths the Buddhas awaken to every now and then.


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I didn’t give an opinion. I was just asking regarding the available possibilities and odds in the world.
I didn’t make an attack on the teaching or the discipline which is taught by Shakyamuni Buddha.
I was asking regarding the first sangha and it’s rule in preserving the Teachings and discipline of Shakyamuni Buddha according to the odds and possibilities mentioned above without giving any opinion myself.

which is core and which is not in the vinaya cannot be decided by us. every word spoken by the buddha is a core. there is differences in vinayas, even if words, these gives alternatives. this variations cannot be disregarded. someone or some(body) is responsible for this variations. some of the various can be caused by misinterpretation, mistranslation, scribing errors, and some cannot be caused by this. when you see a vinaya rule in a tradition that is not available entirely in another tradition, even if it is minor (in your view) or not (you consider it a core), this rule might had been deleted by others, or might be added here. this variation cannot be disregarded. someone has deleted deliberately and someone has added deliberately. these people need to be discovered. their influence on the first sangha must be studied.

not entirely. in all traditions, after the founder dies, his direct followers get into argument fights with each others and variations appear. from the very first moment after. presuming that the first sangha monks are all bad is made on speculations. at the same time, presuming that all of the monks are good is made on speculations also. Devadatta wasn’t the only hypocrite of course. there are others. arguments and various opinions began to diverse from the time of First Buddhist council. I was just asking a question regarding the first cause of these varied opinions among the first sangha. if we say that Buddha didn’t talk about this things, then it will be just like saying that Buddha dharma is incomplete because he didn’t talk about all things need to be talked about. and he was the first cause of these opinions and variations, later, schisms in sangha. Instead of that, I gave possibilities, one of them is that there were someone who is appointed after him, mentioned by name as a successor, one to be followed after him, one who can’t lie about his teachings, one who memorize it wholly, one who is always giving Buddha’s opinion. one who when the sangha gets in argument can always give the right variation, solution of matters.

The authority mentioned as a successor as a possibility proposed is to Preserve intact, protect from altering. preventing variations to pop out from deletion or addition.

secret transmission, hyper mythical sutras, are not mentioned here.
Zen Patriarchs, if their chain with Buddha is linked, no harm is here. But Buddhidhamma chain to Buddha according to Chan/Zen Buddhism contain errors, non-historical figures. The same goes for other Traditions as well (the dotted manuscript in Theraveda for an example).

you might be referring to Maitreya Buddha, or the Buddha which will come after Shakyamuni Buddha to repair the teachings of Buddhism when they [in part, or in all] are lost, forgotten, altered. [is there any maitreyya concept in EBTs?]

or maybe you are referring that there is always at different times and places, Buddhas that got awaken. unfortunately, we cannot know for sure if they are Buddhas or not.

Buddhas if dwelled in their past lives, they can return to Buddha’s time and tell us exactly what are his full teachings. preventing us from getting into arguments [Like this one] about it because there is a lot of opinions and possibilities and we can’t know what is right and what is not for granted because we didn’t live at his time. Where are this Buddhas now?

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