Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Monastic sites

The Buddha’s teachings were very popular and soon there were numerous people following his teaching. The number of lay disciples was almost as many as the ordained monks, as the Sangha grew exponentially it became almost impossible to manage the logistics for all of them. The number of people interested in learning from the Buddha, the late night visitors, the resident monks seeking alms all put together in one place proved to be a challenge for the locals to manage. When the Buddha resided at Rajgriha, it seemed all roads led to the Vihara where he was taking refuge. To solve this practical problem, patrons set up many monasteries so that the monks can stay and practice in various places and the burden of providing for the monks don’t fall on just one community.

These monasteries were often supported by royal patronages and they continued to grow even after the Buddha’s death. It is quoted that at the time of the Buddha’s Mahaparinirvana there were eighteen large monasteries in Rajgriha (Sp.i.9).

The Buddha spent a lot of time in Rajgriha and its vicinity and there are several accounts of the various disclosures at these places but Veluvana seemed like the most favored place where the Buddha like to take retreat with the rest of the Sangha. Griddhkuta at the same time was a calm and serene place perfect for meditation. The Buddha had a large retinue and his followers stayed at separate places keeping in mind the convenience of the local community around them. The Buddha while staying in Rajgriha frequently visited the many other monasteries of the area to observe the practicing monks make sure that they are on the oath of their individual pursuit. When new monks were ordained they were placed in different monasteries and then the rich patrons from the area would contribute towards new huts for them or provide for other basic necessities.

Since Veluvana was a large monastic unit, logistics was always under pressure and especially during the times when the Buddha visited it, the site required active management of resources. Dabba Mallaputta was appointed as the person in charge who regulated the lodging and rationed the food for the convenience of everybody present (Vin.ii.74) his management skills and hard work were so appreciated that monks from far away places came to visit with him and apprentice with him to learn the skills. Some monks even tried to test his skills by creating extenuating circumstances but Dabba was an accomplished arahant and always sorted through any troubles, he was in time designated the chief of those who appointed the managers of such lodgings (senāsanapaññāpakānam) (A.i.24)

Mentioned below are the names of 6 monasteries in Rajgriha and two at neighboring places of Rajgriha. These references of places are found in the Pali literature and it is possible that the 18 monasteries mentioned earlier were located in these 6 places.

Next Post: Pipphali Guha

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