Buddhist Monks and Monasteries of India: Their History and Their Contribution to Indian Culture

By Sukumar Dutt | Go to book overview
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4
ĀVĀSAS AND ĀRĀMAS: Early Monk-settlements

THE legends describe two main types of early monk settlement-- Āvāsa and Ārāma. There is, however, no full-length description of either, but the lack is filled by the abundance of scattered descriptive details. The former was a monks' colony staked out by the monks themselves, while the latter was an enclosed site, usually a donation to monks by a wealthy lay man, in or near a town, looked after by the donor himself.

Within its boundaries an āvāsa or an ārāma had huts for the monks' dwelling, and vihāra was the name originally given to such a hutment,1 although the term in its later usage came to mean something different. A vihāra might be occupied by a single monk or by a small group of monks and, in the latter case, the allotted portion for each monk was called a Pariveṇa.2 The accommodation comprised only what is termed a senāsana (bed-and-sitting) and furniture of a simple kind such as a 'board to recline on' (apassena-phalaka), a 'spittoon' (khelamallaka) and a 'seat' (piṭha) with perhaps jointed legs, which seems suggested by the expression, 'lowering the seat' (piṭham nīcaḿ katvā). It is difficult to say how the pariveṇas were fitted up in a vihāra. In the earliest cave-monasteries ( second century AD) of Western India, the arrangement is to have in each cave a living-room comparatively large, entered through a narrow porch in front, and dormitory cells round the living-room, opening into it. But in the vihāras of the north which were originally of wood and thatch, the pariveṇas were probably just partitioned apartments. A common storage room for such articles as were allowable to monks called Kappiya-kuṭī was a necessary adjunct.

A whole long section of the Mahāvagga (III on Vassa) is given to Āvāsas, probably because they represented the unaided enterprise of the monks themselves involving the setting up of an entire monks' colony from scratch. It deals with the demarcation of an āvāsa, its construction, its maintenance, regulations for communal living

____________________
1
e.g. Mahāvagga, VIII, 15, 4--where the monks of a Saṅghārāma, having gone out into the rain and wetted their bodies, come back and enter each into his own vihāra.
2
e.g. Mahāvagga, VI, 23, 1--where Suppiya, entering a Saṅghārāma goes in search of monks 'from vihāra to vihāra and from pariveṇa to pariveṇa'.

-58-

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