Who were the Chabbaggiya Monks and Nuns?

Chabbaggiya Monks and Nuns, collectively known as the ‘Group of Six’, are very frequently found in Vinaya narratives as the first offenders of various Vinaya offenses.

While most authors tend to assume these were fictitious characters created to provide a narrative for the rules found in the Buddhist Monastic Code, the article found below tries to examine the historicity of this group.

Having this article and the Vinaya itself as a reference, let’s discuss. :anjal:

Pandita-chabbaggiya4-final-1.pdf (162.0 KB)

G P Malalasekera (1899-1973)'s Dictionary of Pali Names entry on Chabbaggiya:

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How could their historicity be decided?

According to the Samantapāsādikā (iii.613f) they were all of Sāvatthi and all originally acquainted. Finding a living hard to obtain, they entered the Order under the two Chief Disciples. They decided among themselves that it was unwise for them all to live in the same place, and they therefore divided into three groups as mentioned above. Each group had five hundred monks attached to it. Of the three groups, the followers of Panduka and Lohitaka were the most virtuous. They remained near the Buddha, accompanying him on his tours. They did not, like the others, transgress Vinaya rules.