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Vinaya Lineage



It is difficult to piece together Dharmaguptaka doctrine from what remains of their written sources, although we do know they tended to emphasize Vinaya and Sutra more than Abhidharma. It is clear from a text which survives in Chinese translation, the Sariputrabhidharmsastra, that the Dharmaguptaka drew on eclectic doctrinal sources and that they were connected with the development of the Mahayana in their preference for the bodhisattva ideal over that of the arhat. They also regarded the Buddha as separate from the community, the Sangha, because he is far superior to it.


The Dharmaguptaka school is difficult to position within the historical development of Buddhism. It was one of the non-Mahayana schools and probably took its name from a group of monks which formed around a teacher called Dharmagupta. Its origins may have been from within the Sarvastivada or the Vibhajyavada in the Sthaviravadin branch of early Buddhism although the Sariputrabhidharmsastra, shows Mahasamghika influence.
     The vinaya of this school was translated into Chinese from its native language, Gandhari, by Buddhayasas between 410 and 413. A Gandhari  version of the Dharmapada has been discovered at Khotan on the silk route into China. This text probably dates from the second century CE, and is an indication that the Dharmaguptakas may have led the first Buddhist missionary activity. The practice of the Dharmaguptaka vinaya was emphasized by the Lu or Vinaya school introduced to China around 650 CE. This school went on to influence the development of Ch'an.


There is no inscriptional or textual evidence to indicate that the school had a distinctive symbol system.


The school has no contemporary adherents, although some of its doctrines continue to be represented in Chinese Buddhism.

Main Centre

Centre  The original main centres of the school are unknown. While visiting India in the seventh century, the Chinese monks Hsüan Tsung and I-Tsing claimed to have found traces of the school in the Uddiyana region. This does not, however, provide evidence that the school originated in the region.