Saṅgha Life and its Organization in Early Settlements
THE legend of Sarabha cited above1 has perhaps no importance save that it hits off, as though by an unwonted stroke of imagination, the character of the Bhikkhu-Saṅgha as we may suppose it to have originally been--that is, when it was no more than a sect in the wanderers' community. The 'Dhamma of the Sakyaputtiyas' is the name taken to distinguish it from other sects: not 'Dhamma-vinaya' as the legends usually name and specify it. The faith of the Sakyaputtiyas in this dhamma was firm and, if the legend is any indication, almost fanatical. The strength of their union in the faith seems to have become an urge to devise for themselves an outward token for the inner bond, to which the name Pātimokkha was given. One must be careful, however, not to equiparate it with the present signification of the term: it did not stand originally for the congregational rite to which the name was later applied.
This original Pātimokkha of the Bhikkhus is described in the Mahāpadāna Suttanta (Dīgha Nikāya, 13). It is not the recital of a code of offences against the rule and regimen of monastic life, but a congregational chanting by assembled Bhikkhus of a confession of faith; it is not a regularized fortnightly function, but a rite held only once in six years. The confession of faith itself is a summing-up of the fundamental Sāsana (Injunctions) of the religion. In this formulated form it must have been current among the Bhikkhus since the early days of the Saṅgha, for it occurs among the verses of the Dhammapada:2
Khantī paramaḿ tapo titikhhā
Nibbānaḿ paramaḿ vadanti Buddhā;
Na hi pabbajito parūpaghāti,
No samaṇo hoti paraḿ vihḷthyanto (v. 184).
Sabba-pāpassa akaraṇaḿ, kusalassa upasaḿpadā
Sacitta-pariyodapanaḿ--etaḿ Buddhāna sāsanaḿ (v. 183).
(Tr.--Forbearance or Patience is the highest kind of penance--and Nibbāna is declared to be the highest (object) by the Buddhas--for____________________